Synchronized swimmers Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting. (Photo/Xinhua)
Huge bonuses have twisted any sense of sportsmanship in China's 12th National Games, which ended amid strikes and calls of unfair judging on Thursday. Athletes and coaches who won gold medals during the event were lavished with bonus money and rewards from their home provinces, causing some to question the integrity of the competition, according to our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.
Provincial governments across China spurred on their representative athletes with promises of riches, a practice borrowed from the 2012 Olympic Games. China had then put up as much as 500,000 yuan (US$81,000) for gold medal athletes, awarded by the State General Administration of Sports.
Shandong province offered its athletes a 350,000 (US$57,000) yuan bonus, throwing in a mansion worth over one million yuan (US$163,000). Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces offered 300,000 yuan (US$49,000) with multiple extra gifts and rewards while Shanghai promised a 500,000 yuan (US$81,000) bonus per person to its football team if they won a gold medal during the game.
Fencing player Xiao Aihua from Jiangsu province was awarded a four-million yuan (US$653,000) bonus during the previous national games. He has never won an Olympic medal.
The huge bonuses drove some of the athletes and coaches to pursue the gold by any means necessary. A coach named Peng Hao said the medal is the only way to measure the skill of athletes and coaches.
Coaches who successfully helped an athlete to win a gold medal will enjoy higher status and doubled salaries over the following four years before the next national games. The training of their star athletes will also receive aid.
Along with the unrestricted wealth riding into the games was the equally mountainous pile of rumored game fixing. Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting, twin sisters and synchronized swimmers who won silver medal at 2012 London Olympic Games, announced their retirement with regret on Thursday. They were defeated by the team from Liaoning, the province that hosted the event, coming in third place for the last competition in their sports career. They claimed unfair judging, but were overturned by the panel.
The entirety of Beijing's 7s women's rugby team was banned from participating in two international competitions earlier this month after they threw a match against Shandong team due to their anger for unfair judging.
Xiao Aihua 肖愛華
Jiang Wenwen 蔣文文
Jiang Tingting 蔣婷婷