China says must ditch gold obsession to root out sports graft

Tue Sep 8, 2015 10:49pm EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China must ditch its obsession with winning gold medals if really wants to root out corruption in sports, especially ahead of next year's Rio Olympics, the country's sports chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Corruption in international sports is in focus because of a U.S. and Swiss probe into soccer's world governing body FIFA.

China, which is aggressively seeking to stamp out graft in Communist Party and government ranks, has also sought to eject corrupt elements from its sports establishment, particularly within soccer, which has been hit by match-fixing scandals.

China was hit by two new sports graft scandals over the summer, with probes into a deputy sports minister who sat on China's Olympics committee, and another into the country's volleyball chief. Few details have been released on either.

Speaking at an internal meeting on fighting corruption, sports minister Liu Peng said the sector needed to think deeply about why it had a graft problem and take "decisive steps" to excise it.

"It is mainly focused on rewards for putting gold above all else, which has warped the spirit of sports," Liu said, in comments carried by the party's graft-busting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

This has created "numerous problems" and must be banished, he added, without elaborating.

"We must ... increase thought education, instill a correct view of sports rewards and deepen sports reform," Liu said.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chinese athletes swept to the top of the gold medal table, a feat accompanied by a wave of national pride, the culmination of China's "100 year dream" to host the world's most prestigious sports event.   Continued...

A young gymnast hangs from gymnastic rings in front of a Chinese national flag during a gymnastics class for children aged between seven and ten at the Shichahai Sports School in Beijing in this March 21, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/David Gray