Anger at Olympic 'cover-up'

Liu Xiang after his fall at the London Olympics A CCTV commentator was almost in tears when Liu Xiang fell during competition in London

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The moment Liu Xiang crashed out of the 110m hurdles was, for millions of Chinese television viewers, one of the most dramatic, heart-rending moments of the London Olympics.

But now many have been left feeling duped after it emerged that almost everyone, except for the television audience, knew Liu, China's great hope on the track, was injured and unlikely to have a chance of winning gold.

What's particularly angered people is that CCTV, China's state broadcaster, knew Liu Xiang was not fit and scripted its whole coverage in advance.

The revelation was front-page news in the Oriental Guardian newspaper. Its headline said: "Liu Xiang knew; Officials knew. Only the viewers foolishly waited for the moment of miracles."

'Old athlete'

When Liu Xiang hit the first hurdle and fell, CCTV's commentator Yang Jian was almost in tears, his voice choking, his commentary emotional.

Start Quote

You lied to us, cheated our feelings. You guys are rubbish.”

End Quote Weibo comment

"He's 29, an old athlete... he should rest now." Yang Jian told the viewers.

"This is the worst outcome I have thought of today. If an athlete does not have a good leg, it's like a soldier without a gun."

But, the Oriental Guardian says,"Yang Jian's commentary was too perfect to be real." The words, and the tears, were pre-scripted.

It says the deception came to light on Wednesday, when the head of CCTV's commentary team admitted at a public seminar that Yang Jian had heard that Liu had a serious injury.

The paper says CCTV's managers instructed their commentator to prepare four separate scripts to cover all eventualities. "The 'crying' version was one of the four."

Many others have picked up the story, including the Shanghaiist blog and the China Youth Daily.

Liu Xiang is a national hero in China. He won China's first-ever track and field gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

He was the face of the Beijing Olympics and a stunned nation watched him limp off the track there too, sidelined by the same Achilles-tendon injury.

Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang as he arrived in Beijing Liu Xiang, who won China's first-ever gold in track and field, is seen as a hero

The state-controlled English-language China Daily says "the craze that has followed him is similar to Yao Ming's effect on China's basketball... almost all Chinese sports fans' hearts synchronise with the fluctuations of Liu's performance."

'Truly disgusted'

It's unsurprising then that so many now feel deceived and angered, emotionally manipulated by CCTV's commentary. The story has drawn well over a million comments on China's weibo micro-blog service.

"I feel truly disgusted. Is it worth the true feelings of so many people? Emotions and deceptions have been perfectly merged. Tears and courage have been downgraded to be worthless. Media that has no bottom line is a rotten entity without hope," wrote one user.

Others were even more blunt, posting comments like, "You lied to us, cheated our feelings. You guys are rubbish," and "Nothing is impossible in this world. We no longer want to be a public that doesn't know the truth."

And it's not just CCTV, but China's government too, that is in the firing line.

"This can only happen in China. Acting and fraud and many skills are learnt from the government," said one user.

"The society has no trust. This original sin does not come from the people. Trust has to be built by a trustworthy government and media," wrote another.

China's government already faces a public that is sceptical about the honesty of what they hear from officials and the official media.

The coverage of Liu Xiang's Olympics seems to have provided one more reason for people to be cynical.

Damian Grammaticas Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    pssst....trolling and personally criticising the correspondant because you don't agree with their content is sad....

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I am Chinese, and to be honest my pride is in what I can do, not what stochastic random citizen of my birth country can do. I pity all those nationalists who find pride or sadness in what other fellow citizens can or can not do. Surely, one should either cheer every competitor, or none at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Sorry don't mean to be critical about your articles again, but maybe next time you can write and publish something about China in line with a CURRENT EVENT! Not publishing something that nobody really talks about anymore and it's over and done with. Yes, some said he's a fake and cheat but some still think that he's a hero, me think he should just go away, but your article on this is just too late!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    A Canadian journalist says he quit working for China's news agency because it wanted him to spy on the Dalai Lama in Ottawa.

    But China's Xinhua news agency dismissed that claim as "Cold War" ideology.

    The matter will likely revive debate around the long-standing issue of whether Xinhua is an intelligence-gathering front for the Chinese government instead of a legitimate news service.

    And the black kettle calling the black wok black.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @Comment 17

    Odd- I read this article in terms of the Chinese public being very much like most other 'publics'- demanding transparency, exhibiting anger at duplicity, and calling for openness.

    I've often been concerned with how the nation and public of China is cast as something 'other', and this article surely does away with such an outdated view? What is being reported is the response of Chinese people.

    Grammaticas' article re: Chinese joining a select club of nations who have sent a woman into space I also found to be of this nature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    It is hardly surprising that this normal story's ending is turning against China's government. Grammaticas, I wondered if the only job for you to be in Beijing was to report negative news? Is there any good about China in your eyes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Journalism has now become an Olympic sport? It isn't real anymore but all figments of reporters and editors imaginations. Cheating is lying instead of doping. Maybe they do both as lots of it is surreal. China may need the enquiring services of a certain very busy Lord pretty soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Of course, I don't want to taint all media, but there are too many media outlets that lie, script, & should be members of ACTA.
    I share the Chinese feelings of being fed up, of having to search for the truth myself, in fact - sacrifcing too much time doing what the media itself should be doing: reporting the facts, just the facts (with as little personal reaction as possible).

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    CCTV and other medias in CHINA and RUSSIA. Let's start only reporting negative side of the western countries from now on, since it's exactly what they are doing to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Typical China-style, I guess.

    What's all this knocking the BBC? It is the 'British' Broadcasting Corporation; not for the world. Bar the ceremonies, of course they will mainly follow Team GB, you all had your own network feeds, so blame them if you feel aggrieved. And to the guy with the Rusky wife... who cares, it's one country, there were 204. If your wife wanted to see more Russian flag-waving, go to Russia or buy a video of the Moscow games! I think the Chinese and Russians are upset because they didn't really win any proper medals... tiddlywinks anyone. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Where is this dumb ass stationed. Is he in China, if so then China should just take him out. As they always say, anything could happen in China!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    This article may be true, but comes across as nothing else other than pre-meditated negative coverage. Quite ironic, considering it's about media manipulation..

    Since the BBC so wants to be identified as British, I feel justified in pointing out that one of the gold medals won by Chris Hoy (oh wait, Sir Chris) was tainted by some unscrupulous tactics, which didn't seem to get much attention from the BBC.

    Grow up beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Ah Grammaticas - the anti-Beijing correspondent. What will China do to displease you next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Grammaticus criticizes China's media, yet the Western media is just as bad in different ways. Western media 'may not' be controlled by governments, but instead, you have a media where all the journalists have their own political, moral and activism agendas, under the umbrella of the media moguls, and impartial, free and fair journalism are only words to make them and democratic governments feel better about themselves. The BBC far to often takes the pulse of China from 'selected anti-Beijing' blog entries and then reports a biased demonizing view of China, what a poor form of journalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    If a may push aside the media issue; It was against the moral principles of coaching that Liu's coach to let him run him when it was certain to aggravate his injury, and there was no chance of him even finishing at all.
    Not only are athlete's are a human treasure who need to be treated with humanity, but also ALL athlete's will get injuries now and again, so healing time and not driving them beyond a reasonable limit is just optimizing your teams performance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The lack of coverage on the BBC for any country other than GB was sad. Its an international event, not just an ego trip for Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    . . . the bbc's coverage of things Chinese and Russian is always very biased. I have spent a lot of time in Russia and my experience bears no resemblance to the country the bbc describes, and the coverage of the alleged doping by the Chinese swimmer was appalling . . . no country is perfect, but we are hardly paragons of virtue ourselves . . . a bit more balance please

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    you could look at the scripting as cycnical manipulation; or you could see it as planning ahead - the fake tears are too much though. However, the inane commentary of the BBC at the opening and closing ceremonies (and yes,I am looking at you Hazel Irvine) could have done with a bit of CCTV input! I have a Russian wife, and the attention given to Russia was awful, including them having less airtime than the Cook Islands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    #2 I'm curious. Would you describe an account of Hitler's refusal to present Jessie Owen with a medal 'more anti-German rubbish'?


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