Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beijing Olympics: When do sports and health go together?

In China, teachers and parents often associate sports with health. No doubt if you want better health, regularly doing exercise is a must. On the other hand, pushing people to limits in sports often goes in the wrong direction of a healthy life. Not everyone in China agrees with that view, or immediately realizes it. Failing to realize this danger, thousands of parents send their kids, usually one per family, to sports schools known for Spartanic training. While we cheer for the Olympics to be held in Beijing next month, anticipate extraordinary influx of visitors and money, and the boost of national pride too tightly interwoven with sports, we should never forget the boys and girls, now men and women, that failed to achieve the absolute top, and all because of over-training and inhumane treatment, failed in health, and subsequently failed financially and in personal life. Read NPR's renowned reporter Louisa Lim's heart-breaking report Many Chinese Athletes Find No Glory In Retirement. These retired athletes' miserable life is not a hot topic in China, not among many parents and teachers, and particularly not hot during the frenzied cheers for the upcoming Olympics.

All we need is a sober mind. Be cool, be healthy. Tell your friends, those dads and moms, and teachers, that sports is not health unless moderation is practiced. Beijing Olympics is just an event. National pride comes from 1 out of 1 million. While you root for the 1-millionth, remind yourself of the 999,999 that may become another "Zhao Yonghua, 31, spent much of the past decade in bed". I believe only when the whole country stops treating gold medals as national pride this fanatically will sports and health be closer in concept.

(To have a balanced view, read all four of Ms Lim's reports at China: Glory For The Nation)