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 42.

    Another commenter here has eluded to something quite interesting, and I shall echo. A free media does not equal 100% reliability. By definition, individuals are free to push their personal agenda if they wish. Just check out the left/right wing papers.

    The key difference is that it cannot be used as a direct tool of the government. You talk about the BBC - what, the BBC that has had legal battles with parliament?

    41. yowatusay

    There is far more anti-US feeling in the UK than there is anti-China. Just look at any comments section on this very website and you will find this to be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    "All this reminds us of an ancient fable - crying wolf. In the story the boy only lied once, and nobody believed him afterwards and he was eaten by a wolf.

    "The Chinese propaganda machine is luckier - they have been telling lies for over 60 years, and now, everything they say is doubted."

    And you will never hear some westerner say this about the UK or any western country.

    Only in China you say, what a pity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    This is so not news that it is not funny. Anyway, kudos to the man for trying, despite the injury :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    CNN BBC and others like are just western propaganda machines, so called freedom mouthpiece. thats all

  • Comment number 38.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    regarding CCTV' attempt to hold back truth, what can we say, there is always rogue editor/journalist out there thinking he can choose for us what to see and what to hear. CCTV has, BBC has loads as well. The only thing we can do is as soon as we find out, we don't let them get away easily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Damian is accidentally telling the truth about China this time. I.e. the Chinese mainstream media are pursuing truth and CAN criticise CCTV. Ooops, next time Damian, when you trying to paint a picture of state censored Chinese media, be careful not get caught by this story, then we know you are a honest man. Regarding CCTV's obvious attempt to not upset viewer in advance, what can we say

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.


    If you believe then I really don't know what to say. Clare Balding is a presenter primarily of horse racing, and merely acted as the anchor on swimming. Ian Thorpe and Adrian Moorhouse acted as the EXPERTS on the coverage - i.e THEY are the ones whose views are meant to be taken seriously by the public.

    Clare Balding never actually made an accusation - her disbelief was distasteful, yes, but irrelevant in the face of other positive views presented during the coverage.

    And you totally ignored my link. Hmmm who really has the agenda here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    And yet the BBC stood by Clare Balding for making false accusation. Ian Thorp and Sdrian Moorehouse were only guess commentators who were trying to bury a hole created by Balding. The BBc have no choice excpet to cover up for mistakes after Lord Coe and WADA came out to defend Ye Shiwen. BBC have not been very outspoken agains the arrest of Julian Assange but rather being very vocal in support of the false accusation against him

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    32. Two (far more knoweldgable) BBC swimming commentators, Ian Thorpe and Adrian Moorhouse quite rightly spoke out in defence of Ye Shiwen, as did a lot in the US. Also you should read this:

    If that isn't a supportive article nothing is.

    Incidentally I distinctly remember the BBC cycling commentators talking in length at the unfair disqualification of the Chinese female sprint team.

    Very biased.

    Unfortunately for your comment, westerners can freely access your news sites; even a cursory glance would undermine your comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Compare to China's CCTV the BBC is no better and a lot worse. One of its Olympics sport commentator accuses Ye Shiwen of doping after she won gold. If the BBC is so free and honest why cant it show Prince Harry's naked photos when it is splashed all over Chinese new outlets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Breivik admitted killing 77 people and wounding more than 240 others when he bombed central Oslo and then opened fire at an island youth camp last year.

    wow he gets 21 years in jail and Gu gets 15 years, so unfair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Let's get something straight here, yes China's media has its issues, but the same can be said for Western media. But it's Western media, like the BBC, that's constantly criticising China's media for bias and propaganda, yet Western media is guilty of the very same criticisms. Reporters like Grammaticus have extreme views and biases not conducive to impartial journalism in a free press, it's not purely the facts being reported but a heavily manipulated version of information and events for the purposes of portraying China in a particular way, usually negatively, also know as Western propaganda

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    And the BBC does well covering other countries much better than when I was in the US, India, China etc... At this Olympics we were hosting and we did happen to be winning a lot.

    As for the Russian coverage in general - I have only ever thought the BBC was negative about the government, not the place itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Are these comments serious?

    The western media can be bad but pre-scripted with 4 different ready made versions, and withholding the knowledge of a national icon's injury. That is about nationalist propaganda. There is nothing wrong with reporting that. What I find really interesting is the the population is finally getting to see the problems with state controlled media whereas in the past Chinese have always defended their government.

    As for the hurdler himself - I dont think he had much choice but to run after what happened when he pulled out last time.

    And yes I have lived in China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I had suspicions when Liu Xiang struck the first hurdle - he hit it with his mid-foot - not even close to clearing it.

    Here I suspected that for him better to crash out while valiantly battling to overcome injury then to get beaten.

    Given the way in which he "failed", the hero worship he has back in the PRC (first chinese to win a gold in track and field) and the shrill nationationalism and partiotic education of his compatriots mmmmmmmmm......i wonder

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    An entire article about some comment made by 1 host on Chinas Olympic Broadcaster ????

    The BBC is trying too hard to talk down china, give it a rest, you have 0 credibility in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    "A decade ago the city was almost entirely Uighur but now a third of the population is Han Chinese, according to local officials."

    And in the London Olympics TV coverage you don't hear this.........

    A decade ago the city was almost entirely English but now a third of the population is Hindi Indian, according to local officials.

    hey #24 He is bias that makes his reporting govt controlled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    With regards to a previous comment. The comments that criticise the correspondent are legitimate opinions too. I do not see how that is sad! Are reporters deemed to be somehow special and angelic and beyond question and criticism? They're human, with all the associated faults, just like you and me. It always amuses me when freedom of speech advocates preach 'freedom of speech', but are quick to condemn those that have a different opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It's funny how BBC reporters, Grammaticus in particular, exploit Chinese blog comments in a feeble attempt to legitimize their news articles. Whenever there's an event in the world, it's usually followed by personal blogs entries, covering a whole spectrum of views, it's normal. Yet, the BBC loves to highlight China's media controls, but the BBC is also politically filtering blogs to serve your own agendas too. This is just another facet in a very 'controlled, biased and political' Western media. Journalist = politician = activist. All wanting to shape the world in their image.


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