Olympic Games 2004 in Athens
The year 2004 was intended to be a sort of athletic test run or intermediate stop for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In the Chinese press, much advance speculation was made about who would take third place in the national rankings, as the first two places seemed to be assured the USA and Russia. Germany was considered a serious competitor for third place.
Olympic Medals 2000 in Sidney:
Olympic Medals 2004 in Athens:
China did surprisingly well, with 32 golds, 17 silvers, and 14 bronze medals. The greatest sensation among them was the gold medal won by Chinese sprinter Liu Xiang in the 100 m hurdles. Golds in diving, powerlifting, and shooting were more expected.
In the matter of doping, China was formerly most concerned about negative headlines. Seven swimmers were convicted of doping at the 1994 Asia Games. Shortly before the Olympic Games in Sydney, China made headlines because it suddenly decided not to permit twenty-seven athletes and twelve trainers to fly to Sydney. Just two weeks earlier, the IOC had approved new testing methods to detect blood doping.
For some, this was yet another indication that in China, systematic doping took place; for others, including Juan Antonio Samaranch, it was evidence that the Chinese government was taking on the problem of doping, and that the IOC's checking was becoming more effective. Since then, Chinese athletics officials have realized that doping rumors are bad for the country's image. At the Games in Athens, not a single Chinese athlete tested positive. A large portion of the medals were achieved in "clean" sports like high diving or shooting. Testing during training is permitted in China. Members of the IOC perceive the believability of the US track and field association more critically than that of Chinese efforts in the antidoping struggle.
Supporting sports in China - Planning for the 2008 Olympics
One reason for the Chinese teams' success is consistent support of even those sports that are only peripheral in the west. The stringent training methods stand out to western observers, while the sport promises the athletes themselves enormous economic and social opportunities. Considering that the average age of Chinese Olympic athletes is incredibly low, one can expect China to be the favorite contender for number one in the medal rankings.