22 August 2008

Why Didn't Liu Run

I've been enjoying the Olympics. I hope you have, as well, dear reader.

There was something of a disappointment for aficionados of track and field events around the world, and especially in the host country, early this week. Liu Xiang withdrew from the men's 110 meter hurdles.

At the last Olympics, in Athens, Liu won the gold in that event. It was a stereotype-shattering event, too. He became the first athlete not of African descent to complete that event in less than 13 seconds. The stereotype of Asian men, of course, is "brainy, not athletic."

Liu has expressed himself in terms that acknowledge the stereotypes. "I want to prove to the world that Asians can run very fast."

Consider it proven. Indeed, in 2006, at an event in Lausanne, Liu set a new world's record in this event at 12.88 seconds.

But while his home country is hosting the Olympic games, the reigning king of the sport has withdrawn! And the gold went this week to a Cuban athlete who -- if I may say so without giving offense -- does look like the stereotypical track-and-field star. That winner, Dayron Robles by name, ran the course in 12.93 seconds. Intriguingly, then, Robles ran slower than Liu's best (but a bit more quickly than Liu had run when winning in Athens).

Why did Liu pull out? There seems to be some confusion about that point. The Epoch Times, claims there's a cover up.

Epoch Times has its own political agenda here. It's a China-themed periodical printed in New York City, in both Chinese and English editions, specifically for the purpose of tracking human rights violations by the PRC, and it is sometimes seen as a mouthpiece for the Falun Gong. Some scholars have reportedly been impressed by the network of sources the paper appears to have cultivated within the country.

So coverage of an injury to an Achilles tendon would seem rather trivial for The Epoch Times, wouldn't it? Ah, but they've run an article suggesting that Liu had some sort of "leg injury" even before the games, and that authorities knew that he wouldn't repeat at the gold, but hid this from the public until the last possible moment, staging the pull-out to minimize the popular discontent it was expected to create.

Do I care when precisely Liu was injured? No, but if the paper is at all right, then it is on to a broader point: the kind of extensive information control the State there seeks to exercise over everything does seem chilling.

Personally, I'd just like some day to see Liu and his very best and Robles at his very best running down the same track at the same time, taking the hurdles. With the same wind at their backs.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.