Sun Yang (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - Chinese
sports fans turned on the country's athletes and administrators on Wednesday as the Asian giant languished behind Britain - once dismissed
as an "old declining Empire" - in third place on the Olympic medal
table in Rio.
In the early days of the games, Chinese media sought to play down the
athletes' relatively poor showing, instead praising their competitive
spirit and arguing that medals were not "the be-all and end-all of the
But by Wednesday even the official Xinhua news service could not help showing a little annoyance.
"Even #GBR has one more gold than China," it wrote on a verified
Twitter feed, snapping that China's gymnasts had "suffered the worst
Olympic flop" after failing to win any golds.
It was even blunter a day earlier in a post showing Britain leading
the world's most populous country in golds with the comment: "You
kidding me? The country which has never finished above China is about
That post was rapidly deleted.
But in a report on the gymnastics results it lamented that the
"traditional powerhouse" only took two bronzes in the team events,
adding it was the first Olympics where China had failed to win an
individual gymnastics medal.
The nationalistic state-run newspaper Global Times - which has
previously dismissed Britain as an "old declining empire" whose
"national strength cannot be placed in the same rank as China now" -
tried to keep spirits up on Wednesday with an article headlined "Happy
Without Gold: Chinese public unfazed by sluggish medal winning".
But the mood online was less upbeat.
Some fans complained the Team China athletes owed taxpayers a better
return for the money invested in their training, and criticised the
efforts of failed medallists who said they were simply happy to compete
"The athletic skills every athlete possess are half owned by the
state," wrote one user on the WeChat messaging service cited by the
On China's Twitter-like Weibo microblog service hundreds of
commenters debated an article that claimed to reveal "The Secret Behind
Britain's China-beating Gold Medals", which it attributed to an
ambitious national plan - implicitly defending China's system of sports
One user commented: "Though I'm not in favour of gold medal-ism, not even being in second place is still a bit sore."
Other comments online were less polite. Some blasted Chinese athletes
for blaming their lack of success on poor refereeing, while others were
furious at China's failure to keep up with Britain, which has a
fraction of its population.
"Screw you (China), not only have you fallen behind in gold, but
you're actually soon about to lose the medal count to an EU-quitting
kingdom,' wrote one, adding: "The General Administration of Sports
should commit harakiri and apologise."