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"Nothing has been done that was underhanded," said Abul Hassan, the member of the AGF executive committee from Pakistan. "Years ago Taiwan came in, found a place vacant and said, "I'm the descendant of China." They came into the Asian Games as China. Now China has come in and said, "We want our place." It is not at the expense of Taiwan that the People's Republic takes its place. With 800 million people, you have to make a choice."
To get into the Olympics, China must next get the approval of the individual federations, and so far only the weight lifters have voted to oust Taiwan to make room for the mainland. That was by a unanimous vote of the board members—Thailand, Russia, Iran, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Austria, Spain and England—on May 4. Four other federations—basketball, table tennis, volleyball and badminton—were able to accept the People's Republic as a member because Taiwan was not in their groups.
At the Asian Games, the Chinese competed in 14 of the 16 sports. They skipped boxing, which they say is indecent, and they did not participate in field hockey because they have never played it. That leaves nine federations, including the big four of soccer, swimming, track and field, and gymnastics to haggle over the Chinese issue. The going will be sticky. The problem is not bringing China in, but throwing Taiwan out. Peking will not have it any other way. At the soccer meetings in Frankfurt during June's World Cup, China's application for membership was accepted by a simple majority, but the federation requires a three-fourths vote for the expulsion of a member. That was not attained and, as a result, the People's Republic still is not a member of the soccer federation.
There also is the possibility that all of this might turn out to be moot. The Chinese may go home, check their times against world competition, decide to skip Montreal and let the Taiwanese get shellacked instead.
As the Asian Games concluded it was glaringly apparent that while the Chinese may have everyone far outdistanced in quantity, they come up very short in quality—primarily because they lack experience in international competition. Surely they are the best in table tennis and badminton, but neither is an Olympic sport. After diving, shooting and gymnastics, where they showed tremendous potential, the Chinese demonstrated little that seemed likely to make them threats on a worldwide basis. The Asian Games medal count is misleading, since most of the winners there fell far short of Olympic qualifying standards. Some even failed to approach United States schoolboy records.
Yasunori Hamada of Japan won the men's 10,000 meters in 30:49.87. The Olympic qualifying minimum for 1972 was 28:50, and the American high school record is 29:17.6. China's Ma Hsuehchung finished 10th in that race in 34:46.47, almost six minutes slower than the Munich standard.
Thailand's Anat Ratanapol took the 100-meter final to earn the title of Asia's Fastest Human. He won in 10.42, one-tenth of a second slower than the Olympic qualifying time and three-tenths slower than the U.S. schoolboy mark. One of the Chinese sprinters, Feng Chenjen, finished in 10.63; the other, Yu Weili, pulled a hamstring 40 meters from the tape. In two previous heats neither did better than 10.8.
Those were not isolated examples. If the Asian Games had been the qualifying trials for the Olympics, only eight male track-and-field athletes would have met the standards, and just one of those would have been Chinese. He was Ni Chih-chin, a high jumper who finished second to Iran's Teymour Ghiassi (7'3") with a leap of 7'1", three-eighths of an inch over the qualifying standard.
In swimming, the only other sport where such meaningful comparisons are possible, China floundered in every event. In the 400-meter freestyle relay, the only race in which the Chinese women placed, their time was 4:21.77. At Munich the slowest qualifying time was 4:05.95, and the U.S. won in 3:55.19. The Chinese men took nine swimming medals, and not once did they come near the slowest qualifying time for the finals two years ago at the Schwimmhalle. Lo Chao-ying, who finished second in the 100-meter butterfly in 58.44, came closest. At Munich that would have placed him third in the first heat and 18th overall. The poorest qualifying time was 57.28. Mark Spitz won in 54.27.
Still, it would be ill-advised to sell the Chinese short. Five years ago they were given no chance of being in an Olympics, and it now seems possible that they will be on hand in Montreal. There is a lot of unhoned talent in the People's Republic. All China has to do is sharpen it up in tough international competition and the result could be a whole new ball game, or footrace, or swim meet. And considering the way things have been going for the Chinese lately in sporting politics, it might even be dangerous to bet that there won't be any Ping-Pong played at Montreal.