Olympic Rings China Style. Source: zastavki.com

It is hard to ignore events of a scale such as the Olympic Games. But having been raised in a family where sports were kept at a safe distance, and the primary (and often only) exercise consisted of simply biking everywhere (living in Holland, that’s what you can expect, of course), I have been quite successful at avoiding it throughout the years. As a child I did gymnastics, and I used to watch those events, until I started to fully comprehend the dangers of jumping around on the beam, vault, and unlevel bars, something my parents had discovered much earlier and which kept them from coming to any of my own gymnastic competitions. Once watching floor routines turned into an experience equal to watching a horror movie, I gave up on that too. After moving to the United States, I attended exactly 3 sports events (4 if you count monster truck races): two football games (Go Ducks!), and one roller derby match. The latter one was by far the most entertaining.

When Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008, I was semi-forced by my persisting interest in China to at least watch the opening ceremony. I lived in China in 2006-2007, and witnessed the many projects that were ongoing in Beijing in preparation of the Games. Sadly, the one lasting memory of the live broadcast of the opening ceremony is my annoyance with the inability of the Dutch broadcaster to properly pronounce Zhang Yimou’s name.

But whether I like sports or not, China has consistently improved its performance in sports arenas around the world. The numbers don’t lie:

  • Medals for China at the 2012 Summer Olympics, so far (on 1 August)
    • Total: 23
      • Gold: 13
      • Silver: 6
      • Bronze: 4
  • Medals predicted for China for the 2012 Summer Olympics (Wall Street Journal, 3 January):
    • Total: 103
      • Gold: 43
      • Silver: 31
      • Bronze: 29
  • Medals for China at the 2008 Summer Olympics
    • Total: 100
      • Gold: 51
      • Silver: 21
      • Bronze: 28
  • Total medals for China in all Summer Olympics: 385
  • Medals in Ping-Pong (since 1988): 41 (South Korea is second, with a total of 17 medals)
  • Number of Chinese athletes competing in the 2012 Olympics: 380 (225 women, 171 men)
  • Number of sports China is competing in: 23
  • New subway lines in Beijing build for the 2008 Olympics: 7
  • “Martial Arts” included in the Olympic Games: 7 (Judo, Taekwondo, western archery, boxing, javelin, wrestling, and fencing)