07 August 2013, 14:47
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Made in China

The words, “made in China,” are encountered every day by nearly everyone who buys manufactured products on Earth. It is difficult to find a toy or shoe or machine that is not, at least partially, “made in China.” And now the Olympic Medals…

Beijing is the second capital of a communist country (Moscow the first in 1980) to welcome the Olympic Games. While the Moscow Olympiad, boycotted by the Americans, started polarization of the sport world in the Cold War era, the Beijing Olympic Games have become the opposite, with a record number of world leaders gathering for the opening ceremony.
It seems that China, home to one in five people on the planet, wanted to make a bold statement from the start. Most journalists agreed that the opening and closing ceremonies of the XXIX Olympic Games were by far the best in the history of the modern Olympics. Not only did they surpass all prior ceremonies by the number of participants, but also for their creativity and technical performance.
The budget for the Beijing Olympic Games, including significant infrastructure improvements, exceeded 40 billion dollars. New arenas and new buildings were raised. The “Bird’s Nest,” (as locals dubbed their new state of the art National Stadium), the National Aquatic Center or “Water Cube” and other masterpieces of modern architecture took their rightful place on the list of landmarks to see in China, along with The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, and The Temple of Heaven. In this way, a new chapter of modern Chinese history was written.
Of course, some peculiar things did not go unnoticed by a traditionally critical media. The spectacular fireworks during the opening ceremony turned out to be largely computer generated for television audiences. The beautiful Chinese girl actually lip-synched her song during the opening ceremony, replacing a “less attractive” child endowed with a beautiful voice. The entire women’s gymnastics team from China looked much younger than their “newly issued” Chinese passports were showing. However, for those who have lived in a communist country, these small aberrations from Western norms were all to be expected.
The Chinese athletes also dominated many sport disciplines and rightfully collected the most gold medals. Are they already the next major world power or still on the way to becoming one? The only nation that was close to China with the number of gold medal wins was the last remaining superpower – USA, which collected the most medals overall.
Chinese athletes also represented other nations in the XXIX Olympiad. The table tennis team from the USA was composed entirely of Asian players born in China. Germany was also represented by an ethnically Chinese badminton player who lost to none other than a Chinese player from China… I guess, the migration of athletes in search of a better life has had a significant impact on the demographics of the Olympics. It wasn’t shocking to see ethnic Russians: Nastia Liukin, the daughter of an Olympic champion from the former USSR, and Alexander Artemev, the son of another Russian champion, now representing the US gymnastics team. Another Russian - Yuri Patrikeev - was a favorite Greco-Roman wrestler from Armenia. On the other hand, the “business of sport”, has also moved to a national level. Many athletes shop around to represent countries that can afford to pay more for their participation. Finally, some athletes simply wanted to participate in the Olympic Games in spite of the fact that they were not chosen to represent the home country’s team. This was the story of Chris Kaman, an American basketball player from Los Angeles Clippers, who represented Germany even though he has only visited Germany via air transit. The only thing that could be guaranteed is that there wouldn’t be any Georgian athletes competing for Russia…
Armenian athletes were no exception to the new practice of representing other countries. Arthur Ayvazian won Gold for Ukraine in shooting (50 m rifle). Armen Vardanyan, also representing Ukraine, won bronze in 66 kg class of Greco-Roman wrestling. Another Armenian, Ara Abrahamian, representing Sweden in Greco-Roman wrestling, made headlines with his protest. He took the bronze medal from his neck during the medal ceremony, stepped down from the podium, dropped it in the middle of the wrestling mat, and then walked off. Abrahamian believed his loss to the eventual gold medalist Minguzzi from Italy was “totally unjustified”. Swedish coach Leo Myllari said: “It’s all politics.” Abrahamian later said: “My friends called me just 20 minutes before the [bronze] competition, begging me to compete. I decided that I had come this far and didn’t want to let them down, so I wrestled.” A bitter Abrahamian, silver medalist at Athens 2004 who had high hopes of top honors in the 84 kg competition in Beijing, announced he was quitting the sport. He eventually was disqualified and stripped of his bronze medal by the International Olympic Committee for violating the spirit of fair play during the medal ceremony.
For Armenia, represented by 25 athletes, Beijing turned out to be a “bronze” city. Weightlifting, Greco-Roman wrestling and Boxing were the only sports in which Armenians earned medals. In the heavyweight 120 kg category of Greco-Roman wrestling Armenia’s Yuri Patrikeev, favored as a finalist at the beginning of the competition, lost to Mijain Lopez from Cuba, but won the bronze medal by defeating Jalmar Sjoberg of Sweden. Roman Amoyan, another Greco-Roman wrestler, won the bronze in the 55 kg class.
Weightlifters Gevorg Davtyan, Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan, and Tigran Varban Martirosyan won their bronze medals in 77 kg, 69 kg, and 85 kg categories respectively. Finally, boxer Hrachik Javakhyan won the bronze in light weight 60 kg category.
Six bronze medals should still be considered a great achievement for our small nation. Considering the fact that countries much larger in size and population were not able to achieve even that much! Armenians won more medals in Greco-Roman wrestling than Greeks and Romans combined! Finally, Armenia collected more medals than some of the major nations known for strong sport ing traditions, such as Switzerland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Argentina, and Croatia, to name just a few! Nevertheless, I hope that the XXX Olympic Games in London will be more successful and turn “Golden” for Armenian athletes representing our proud nation.

Yerevan Magazine, Winter, N3, 2008

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