China eyes consolidation at Rio, excellence at Tokyo

Thu May 5, 2016 3:32am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China aims to consolidate its existing strengths at this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro before striving to achieve a "leading position" at the next summer Games in Tokyo in 2020, the country's sports ministry said on Thursday.

Chinese athletes bagged the most gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 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.

At the London Olympics four years later, China came second to the United States in the medals table.

Unveiling a lengthy plan mapping out broad goals for China's sports sector for the five years to 2020, the sports ministry said it would aim to further strengthen China's international competitiveness.

"At the 2016 Rio Olympics work hard to maintain and consolidate existing advantages in sports events and results positions," the ministry said.

"At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, strive to get a leading position in sports results," it added, without offering details on how China might achieve this.

Olympic medals are generally won by a minority of government-supported athletes who receive huge backing from the state and a failure to perform is accompanied by massive public pressure and hand-wringing back home.

The government has warned that the country's obsession with winning gold medals has caused problems like corruption and must be ditched if graft is truly to be rooted out.

China is gearing up for another place in the Olympic spotlight after Beijing, along with the neighboring city of Zhangjiakou, last year won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Only one other city wanted it, Almaty in Kazakhstan.   Continued...

Athletes run past a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the entrance to the Forbidden City during the women's marathon at the 15th IAAF Championships in Beijing, China August 30, 2015.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon