Olympics, Day 1: The Pressure to Win


           From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., wave after wave of torrential downpours hit our city.  Even Spendid Alley’s mahjong players remained indoors today.  That was certainly a surprising sight as LF and I trekked by the empty gaming parlors this evening on our later-than-usual walk.  In other words, for those in Chengdu, it was a great day to stay inside and watch the first day’s T.V. coverage of the Games. 

            10,500 athletes from 204 teams are present in Beijing at the moment.  China must be feeling very proud  as it took the first two gold medals, the 48-kg women’s weightlifting and men’s 10-metre air pistol events.  I read that the women’s 10-metre air pistol gold favorite was Du Li, from China, but the poor girl choked under the extreme pressure to win for her country.   She finished fifth and left in tears. 

            News broadcasters have been careful not to proclaim China can outdo America in the final medal count but the expectations from the public for Chinese athletes to win is high.    

            This same extreme pressure is felt by Chinese young people participating in the June entrance exams to get into top universities.   They study diligently for 3 years, taking extra weekend classes and attending their high schools’ mandatory evening study hours from 6 – 10  every night, in the hopes this will ensure their test scores will be higher.  Although parents tell their sons and daughters not to worry and just “do your best,” they actually are wishing for bigger and better results than they let on.  Some students commit suicide either before the test, due to horrific anticipation they’ll disappoint family members with a poor score, or after the test, when they learn their results were not as high as they had hoped.  Others become so disheartened by not achieving their goals that they lose hope, either bowing out of higher education altogether or going to less desirable colleges which they then regret having ever attended.   

            It’s hard for those of us in America to understand this type of pressure and feeling of failure.  In China, it seems to be built into the social system and strikes hard to the very core of the Chinese.  This is especially true for young people, and even more so for Chinese athletes taking part in  these particular Olympic Games, held here in their beloved homeland.

            While watching the Games, I’ll be just as excited as my Asian friends to see their Chinese flag rise during medal ceremonies but I’ll also be keeping those who are not in the winning circles in my prayers.  A life here (or anywhere, for that matter) can be destroyed by failure. At times, we place too much value on being Number 1, whether that be in school, in work or in social circles.

              Sometimes it’s best to have days where goals and expectations are set aside and we just embrace being alive in God’s world. 

            I hope that all these Beijing athletes, who have worked so hard to get to this point in their lives, can take some time out during their days in China.  There’s an awful lot to be gained in enjoying the moment, not the win. 

            (And that certainly goes for all of us as spectators, don’t you think?)


            From Chengdu, on our first Olympic day, here’s wishing you “Ping An” (Peace)!   


About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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