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China all set to floor the world

GRANDEUR IN THE WAIT: A panoramic view of the artists' final rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The stage is set, and China is ready to set the Pearl River on fire. Even as suspense builds up as to who would light the cauldron, and how it would be done, there is no mystery as to who would dominate the 16th edition of the Asian Games that is set to spring to life on Friday.

Once it floors the rest of the world with what promises to be a breathtaking opening ceremony, China will get to the business of scooping the gold medals, and possibly end up with a record haul.

Phenomenal growth

The growth of China in the world of sports has been phenomenal. Beijing Olympics showed the Chinese in fine light as the host collected 51 gold medals to top the table ahead of the super powers, the US and Russia. Japan managed to win 13 gold, and Korea, nine.

Yet, China has already set such an imposing record in the Asian Games that it would need some doing to better its own mark.

The team had won 164 of the 426 gold medals in the last edition in Doha, which pales in comparison to the 183 of 313 gold medals that it had won in Beijing, two decades ago, when it hosted the Games for the first time.

Though Korea and Japan were reduced to clutching 58 and 50 gold medals respectively in 2006, when the Chinese women alone had accounted for 91 gold, it may not be possible for China to crush the former leaders of the region any further and unrealistically set a target of 200 gold medals from a total of 476 that would be on offer.

Launching pad

Though the organisers trumpet that ‘Citizens before gold' as the motto of the Games, so as to use the opportunity of hosting the mega event to improve the quality of life for its citizens in the region, there is no doubt that the event would serve as the launching pad to elevate China to greater heights two years hence, in the Olympics in London.

China has a string of World and Olympic champions, with the evergreen Liu Xiang looking for a hat-trick in the 110-metre hurdles in the Asian Games.

Badminton stars Lin Dan, Chen Jin, Lu Lan, Cai Yun, Fu Haifeng, divers He Chong, Qin Kai, Luo Yutong, Huo Liang, Wu Minxia, Chen Ruolin, swimmers Wu Peng, Chen Zuo, Chen Huijia, Jiao Liuyang, gymnasts Chen Yibing, Yan Mingyong, Yang Yilin, shooters Cao Yifei, Zhu Qinan, Pang Wei, Liu Yadong, Yi Siling, Guo Wenjun, Li Xueyan, Li Rui, table tennis exponents Ma Lin, Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Guo Yue, lifters Wu Jingbiao, Lu Yong, Wang Mingjuan, Li Ping, Li Xueying, Liu Chunhong, Cao Lei, wrestlers Zhao Shasha, Zhang Lan and Li Dan will be some of the familiar Chinese names, ready to share the responsibility in the gold hunt.

The Koreans will try to beat Japan in the total number of medals as well, apart from the gold tally, after having won 193 to Japan's 198 in the last edition.

World and Olympic champion, Tae-Hwan Park who had launched his career with gold medals in the 200, 400 and 1500-metre freestyle swimming events in the last edition (apart from 100m silver and three bronze medals in relays) on way to the ‘most valuable player' award, would once again attempt to spearhead Korea's assault on the gold medals, with support from the archers, judokas and lifters among others.

Japan's challenge

Japan with a contingent of 1,078 that includes coaches and officials, will look up to the two-time double Olympic and World champion, swimmer Kosuke Kitajima, apart from two-time Olympic and eight-time World champion, wrestler Saori Yoshida.

Japan was overtaken at the top of the medals table in the 1982 edition by China, and pushed to the third spot in the following edition in Seoul.

Kazakhstan (23 gold), Thailand (13), Iran (11) and Uzbekistan (11) had all finished ahead of India (10) in Doha. The equation may not change much though Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore would attempt to overtake India.

Pakistan will try to show its prowess in cricket and hockey. In short, there will be something for most of the nations to prove, leading to a lively fortnight.

After having given a glimpse of its growing economy with the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo earlier this year, spending about $90 billion in all, China would take the opportunity to improve its stature, a shade better than the 610-metre tall Canton Tower.

Anti-doping measures

With 1,500 urine and blood tests planned as part of the anti-doping measures, 300 more than Doha, it could lead to the proclamation of another ‘clean Games', expected to feature 9,704 athletes.

Little drops of water make the mighty ocean. China will start its campaign with a little drop of water, at the opening ceremony, and possibly wind up with a pot of gold at the end of the Games. China is bound to win the heart of the world in the bargain, yet again!

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 9:58:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/China-all-set-to-floor-the-world/article15684093.ece

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