Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

China's Dominance Destroying Badminton and Table Tennis

Jun. 20, 2013

By Tom Fearon

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter Espina/GT

During high school, my favorite subject at school was physical education (PE). As teenagers raging with hormones at an all-boys school, the subject gave many of us the chance to release adolescence angst accumulated from poor grades and poorer luck with girls.

The only problem was choosing a sport everyone could enjoy. Soccer was always dominated by the Italian kids. Rugby saw the taller, hairier boys trample the puberty-challenged ones. And fencing allowed diminutive yet academic students to outwit their brutish, dim-witted rivals.

The IOC faces the same dilemma my PE teacher faced years ago: dropping exclusive sports that lack the spirit of fair play. The first step toward restoring prestige and sportsmanship at the Olympics is scrapping badminton and table tennis.

In 2005, the IOC voted to drop baseball and softball as Olympic sports due to US dominance and both sports' limited global appeal. The decision was naturally unpopular among those in the sports, but their absence hardly diminished the 2012 London Olympics' appeal.

For the past 20 years, badminton and table tennis have been spiraling down a similar path due to China's dominance. Since badminton's debut at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, China has won 16 gold in the sport - more than double the combined tally of the two next best countries, South Korea and Indonesia.

In table tennis the situation is even more lopsided, with China boasting 24 of 28 gold medals awarded since the sport was adopted by the Olympics in 1988.

If China's stranglehold on badminton and table tennis continues, it will be "game, set, match" for both sports. Through no fault of its own, China has raised the bar of competition so high and so fast that the rest of the world has been left far behind. Even Chinese audiences struggle to get excited watching their compatriot badminton and table tennis stars square off against each other in medal-deciding matches.

Adrian Liu, who plays for Canada's national badminton team, noted at the 2011 Pan American Games foreign players can't match the intensity of their Chinese opponents' training regimes.

"The Chinese players train three times a day, while most Canadian players only train once a day," Liu, who is of Chinese descent, told the Xinhua News Agency during the tournament.

International audiences are also tiring of the "all-China show" in both sports. Tickets for table tennis matches at last year's London Olympics failed to sell out, while in badminton two Chinese were among eight players disqualified after deliberately trying to lose in order to manipulate the draw.

Now, it is time for the IOC to step in and temporarily remove the sports from the Olympics while the rest of the world catches up to China's level. Many countries have already wisely taken the initiative by hiring Chinese coaches, and many China-born players compete for fledgling badminton and table tennis countries. However, other countries' focus should be on cultivating grass-roots talent instead of relying on Chinese imports.  

Rather than being rigid, the Olympics should reflect the growth and decline of sports. This has already been displayed by the IOC dropping wrestling and adopting golf.

IOC founder and father of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, famously once said: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part." But how many youngsters around the world will be inspired in future to take part in sports where success seems intrinsically linked to being Chinese?

See the original article here.