The following is a guest post written by Jo Hoopes, who accompanied Chinese media on their trip to Super Bowl XLIX last week.
While Chinese media covering American football may once have seemed like an anomaly, this year correspondents and commentators from PPTV, LeTV, CCTV, Shanghai’s G-Sports, Guangdong TV (GDTV), Sina.com and Hupu.com all turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed for Super Bowl week, taking in the larger-than-life fan events and Media Day frenzy with enthusiasm.
NFL legend Jerry Rice, ranked by NFL Films as the greatest player in history, visited China last month as part of the NFL’s continued efforts to promote the game overseas, and China Sports Insider was there to see him. Rice talks about the success the NFL has had in London, how the approach in China is different – plus why a Super Bowl in China would “fantastic”.
Two recent stories of interest to NFL fans here. First, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which has blitzed Europe and elsewhere with its sporting sponsorships, has finally broken into the US market, despite lawmakers doing their best to blacklist the firm due to spying concerns. Unsurprisingly it’s come in Washington where its highly-paid lobbyists have been based, and it’s a partnership with the Redskins – also unsurprising since the Redskins have drawn an equal amount of negative press converage in recent months. As they say, birds of a feather flock together…
San Francisco 49ers legendary quarterback Joe Montana – he of the FOUR Super Bowl wins – was in China recently to promote the NFL. I got the chance to interview him on top of the Great Wall and asked him about the development of the game in China, when Chinese fans can expect to see a preseason game and how soon it will be until a Chinese born-and-bred player makes it in the NFL.
Jamaica has long been the sprint capital of the world, but as this Sports Illustrated article demonstrates (H/T Ollie Williams), the country’s anti-doping efforts in recent years have been pathetic. In the five months before last year’s Olympic Games in London, guess how many out-of-competition tests were conducted?
One. That’s it. A single measly test. Usain Bolt may be largely superhuman, but given the reputation of both his sport and his country, there will always be questions asked about his performance. As this week’s Sports Talk column discusses, Bolt has the ability to continue the sport’s growth almost singlehandedly, but if he ever falls foul of those testers, track and field could have a quick and very painful death.
An incredible thing happened about a week ago, when Usain Bolt regained his 100 meters World Championship title. Olivier Morin, a photographer for AFP, captured a shot of the man nicknamed the Lightning Bolt with an actual lightning bolt clearly visible in the background above the stadium roof.
It was, in some ways, the defining picture of Bolt’s remarkable career, one in which he has now won eight World Championship gold medals, six Olympic titles, and set eight world records.
Bolt is undoubtedly the greatest track athlete of his generation. Other athletes have scaled great heights in Moscow, but none captivates the worldwide press as much as the fastest man in the world, which is why he is scrutinized more than any other athlete.
When it was revealed last month that Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell – together responsible for half of all the 100 meters times ever run under 9.8 seconds – both used performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs, it was impossible not to wonder if Bolt had done as well.
With baseball’s PED scandal blown wide open, cycling’s ongoing battle to convince the skeptics that it has turned a new leaf, and track and field athletes all testing positive for banned substances in recent months, Bolt’s legacy is more important than ever. He might be single-handedly saving the sport right now, but if he is ever found to have crossed the line, he would single-handedly destroy it.
In other sports, such as American football, PED use is almost acceptable. Players may test positive and receive suspensions, but none of them are vilified. Football fans clearly don’t care.
But athletics fans do. If you’re watching to see who will be faster, higher, stronger, as the Olympic motto goes, you want to see these heights attained through a combination of natural talent and hard work. But the ethics of sports and sportsmanship cannot be ignored, and if you cross that line, you become a cheat.
There have been growing calls to legalize all substances in sports, with the argument being made that this is the only way the playing field can truly be level, while the associated health risks are downplayed. We are a long, long way from this becoming a reality, but we’re closer to it than ever before. In the meantime, though, today’s heroes have to live by a certain set of rules. I, for one, hope that Usain Bolt does so.
Bolt plans to run in Rio at the 2016 Olympics, but it’s doubtful if he could continue much longer after that. Chinese sprinting is struggling to replace Liu Xiang right now, but expect to see some of the youngsters come through ahead of the next World Championships in Beijing in 2015.
A brief departure from China for this week’s Sports Talk column to discuss one of the best – and most unusual – sport stories of the year: the non-Fellowship of the Ring. It turns out this story made news at the time eight years ago, with media asking back then if it Putin had stolen it. Kraft stuck to the script, but, eight years later, is apparently fed up and wants the ring back. Putin has since insisted through a spokesman it had always been a gift. It’s hardly a case for the ICC, but it will be interesting to see if there are any further developments. Here’s the piece:
It’s been a good week for unexpected sports stories.
Check out Taiwan’s Next Media Animation’s take on the Washington Redskins name controversy in the video above. Normally NMA has a fairly amusing take on things, even on more serious matters, but this is pretty straight – and pretty damning on the franchise’s history.