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Kristi Heim: The World in China

Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim explores a changing China on the world stage.

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August 22, 2008 11:06 PM

An Olympics beyond gold medals: one alternative view

Posted by Kristi Heim

What images and memories will people take away from these Olympics, beyond who won gold?

Krist's photos 178.jpg

One Chinese observer, Xiong Lei, is disgusted with medal counts and doesn't think much of Liu Xiang, either. She's a retired senior writer and editor of Xinhua News Agency. It was fascinating and refreshing for me to hear her very international view of the games.

Liu Xiang, the Chinese sports icon who dropped out of the Olympics just before his first race, lost the moment Dayron Robles walked into the Olympic Village, Xiong said. Robles "was eating what he wanted to eat. He was playing what he wanted to play... just a normal man," she said. In contrast, Liu was a special athlete surrounded by coaches and boosted to star status, all the while avoiding the public and hiding an injury. Liu was no hero.

When she thinks back on the highlights of the Beijing Olympics, Xiong will think of these people:

--British marathon runner Paula Radcliff, who finished the race in pain without any hope of getting a medal.
--Oksana Chusovitina, the 33-year-old German gymnast driven to compete and use her prize money to cover medical bills for her son, who has leukemia.
--Iraqi athletes like Dina Hussein, who risked her life to train for the games and crossed a battlefield just to buy shoes.
--Asenate Manoa, a runner from the Pacific island of Tuvalu who never used a starting block before participating in these games -- Tuvalu's first Olympics.
--Swedish Table Tennis veteran Jan-Ove Waldner, who played several generations of Chinese players and kept the sport alive in an unlikely place.

Here is a link to Xiong Lei's column.

And just for fun, another alternative view of medals, suggested by Australians as a per capita resorting of the ranks:

Gold medals by population:
1) Jamaica
2) Bahrain
3) Estonia
4) New Zealand
5) Slovakia
6) Australia

Total medals by population:
1) Jamaica
2) Slovenia
3) New Zealand
4) Australia.

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