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.
Though China is far from a winter sports power, the sports ministry said hosting the Winter Olympics would help the country further raise its influence on international sports and spur the development of winter sports in China.
China will study best practices from other countries to ensure its Winter Games are on par with the best internationally, the ministry added.
While Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games to wide acclaim, its bid for the Winter Games had been dogged by concerns over a number of issues such as the city’s notorious smog problem, a lack of snow, corruption and China’s poor human rights record.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Sudipto Ganguly