China's Gold Strategy
Shortly after China was awarded these Games seven years ago, its sports leaders devised Project 119, an initiative to help boost their country to the top of the Beijing medal standings. One-one-nine refers to the number of golds given out at the 2000 Games in the medal-rich sports of track and field, swimming, rowing, sailing and canoe/kayak. In Sydney, China won only one medal, total, in those sports.
At this year's Games the home team could win more than a dozen medals in the Project 119 events—potentially enough to make a difference in a tight battle with the U.S. for the No. 1 spot. Given their traditional strength in table tennis, diving, badminton and gymnastics (in which Yang Wei, top right, is favored to win the men's all-around); their domination of shooting (in which they could win 10 of the 15 events); their depth in women's sports (with stars like weightlifter Liu Haixia, right, world champion in the 139-pound class); and the usual surge in victories by the host country, the Chinese should easily top their 2004 totals of 63 medals (third behind the U.S.'s 102 and Russia's 92) and 32 golds (second to the U.S.'s 36). An analysis in June by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers projected that China would edge the U.S. in total medals 88--87, and a British university study predicted a stunning 46 golds for the hosts. Bookmakers have made the Chinese the favorites to win both the overall and gold medal counts. What will actually happen in Beijing? See SI's Medal Picks section (page 109).