London (AsiaNews) - After the Badminton scandal involving two Chinese athletes, together with six other Asian players in, Beijing has triggered a new, violent confrontation - so far only verbal - with Kazakhstan. The government in Astana has strongly rejected Beijing media claims that two Kazak Olympic gold medals at London 2012 were in reality Chinese and the victories should be counted as Chinese. At the 30th edition of the Games, the Central Asian country has notched up three victories in the first four days, to the amazement of the experts and the public, thanks to the efforts of athletes belonging to ethnic minorities. Meanwhile the U.S. has reached the top of the medals alongside China, with 18 golds apiece; however, the Chinese team remains at the top, with 11 silvers against the nine of the U.S.; five bronze medals for China (for a total of 34), with their American rivals doubling that number for a total of 37 podiums.
Yesterday's also saw another triumph for the most successful athlete in the history of the Games: the Baltimore shark, swimmer Michael Phelps, won his 20th Olympicmedal (including 16 golds) by winning the 200 medley in record time. There are no more adjectives to describe the sporting achievements of the man now considered the greatest athlete of all time. For the third consecutive time in three different editions, he has managed to win the same race, the 200 medley. And now, the shark has his sights on a 21st medal, which might arrive today in the 100m butterfly.
Returning to the controversy between Beijing and Astana, it involves two Kazakh athletes of the ethnic Dungan minority, a tribe native to north-west China that emigrated long ago to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Central Asian country, rich in oil, consists of more than 100 ethnic minorities and their coexistence is always a source of pride for the government, evidence of true social harmony.
When the official Xinhua news agency claimed the two weight-lifters winners at the Olympics - Maiya Maneza and Zulfia Chinshanlo - as Chinese nationals, Astana authorities replied by accusing its cumbersome neighbor of "poor sportsmanship". Since 2007, the two have lived in Kazakhstan and have fully embraced the Kazakh nationality, despite being born in Chinese territory. The government wants to nip any controversy in the bud and so far it has won three Olympic victories.
This latest episode however is further proof of China's "bulimic" hunger for Olympic success. Increasingly, Beijing sees sport as a means of asserting their superiority, even political, and extreme nationalism. This vision of the Olympic competition was startlingly revealed in the 2008 Games in Beijing - which according to Chinese media remains unbeatable for its charm and beauty - and has again raised its head in London.
The episode of the badminton players further proves this, who in order to gain the ultimate accolade sought to purposely lose a qualifying match in order to ensure an easy passage to the final. In other words, for the Beijing Olympic motto "what's important is the taking part" is replaced by the Machiavellian idea that "the end justifies the means". It's of little consequence the, if its athletes are at first exalted and then relegated to the margins of society. This is the story - or rather the human drama - recently revealed by 28-year old Zhang Shangwu to local and international newspapers. He won two medals at the Universiadi in 2001 and was ready for a glittering career, but an injury during training - denied by the manager and the heads of Federation of Gymnastics - forced him to retire early. Now he survives by begging on the streets of the capital, wearing the medals won in his "previous life".
We close with the controversy surrounding Taslima Nasreen, a popular writer originally from Bangladesh, against the leaders of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has for years prevented South Africa from participating in games, as punishment for apartheid. However, it does not take any action against Saudi Arabia, which pursues a policy of marginalization of women athletes. While allowing them to compete it imposes they wear the veil, which is discriminatory as well as impractical in sporting competitions.