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Let the Games Begin
David Wallechinsky
July 12, 2004
China looks to suppress its Olympic past
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July 12, 2004

Let The Games Begin

China looks to suppress its Olympic past

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I am very concerned about the government that will be hosting the Summer Olympics in four years. I'll tell you why.

Since 1983 I have written continuously updated editions of The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics. Because of its size (now 1,172 pages) it has never been translated into a foreign language, but after the 2008 Summer Games were awarded to Beijing, I struck a deal to have the book published in Chinese. The deal fell through last month, however, after the publisher informed me by fax that Chinese censors deemed certain pieces of information in the book to be "confidential to the public in mainland China" and "absolutely not allowed to be written in the Chinese edition...even though they might be facts." I refused to approve any cuts the censors couldn't prove were untrue.

Some of their objections were what you might expect in a Communist country: The censors didn't like sections critical of the Chinese government. Others were more revealing. For example, the book lists the 57 athletes who have tested positive for prohibited drugs at the Olympics, including Chinese volleyball player Wu Dan, who was barred from the Games for using the stimulant strychnine in 1992. The Chinese wanted her name removed but not those of drug-using athletes from other nations. Why? Presumably the Chinese government never told its citizens about the failed test

Comments made by Chinese swimmer Zhuang Yong, who won the women's 100-meter freestyle in 1992, were also ruled unprintable. In a 1994 interview with the Hong Kong Standard, Zhuang likened her training to "real torture" and revealed that she was not allowed to watch television, date or visit her family. Censors also wanted to cut sections about controversial women's track coach Ma Junren, who forbade his athletes from pursuing romantic affairs until age 22. One of those passages details the experience of Wang Junxia, the 10,000-meter gold medalist in 1996: "In December 1994 Wang fled Ma's camp, claiming, among other things, that Ma had tried to force her to marry his son."

Despite this experience, I don't think that the Olympics should be boycotted or moved from China. It is imperative that people and press from democratic nations go to the Games; their effect on the Chinese people and their government can only be positive.