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China media under fire for gold medal hype

August 19, 2004 12:47 IST

Chinese athletes have failed to keep the flame burning after dominating the first few days of competition in the Athens Olympics and state media is now under fire for exaggerating their potential.

The media should stop "competing for a gold medal in hype", the China Daily said in an editorial on Thursday. Articles and photographs of China's athletes are plastered across front pages, newspapers are publishing Olympic supplements and some television channels provide an almost round-the-clock feed.

China won the first medal of the games and followed with a slew of unexpected victories, including its only swimming title so far.

By Tuesday China had 10 golds, prompting the official Xinhua news agency to speculate on the possibility the team could claim more than 30 this year -- two more than in Sydney and 10 more than this year's stated goal.

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However, with major upsets in events in which China has historically dominated -- such as gymnastics -- officials have criticised the media for putting too much pressure on the athletes by building up expectations.

"Exaggerations have been made in the media before and during the Games, surely adding to the athletes' complacency and subsequent stress when things started to go wrong," the China Daily said.

"We must keep a clear head ... it's imperative that we don't become overly optimistic," the Beijing Morning Post quoted Li Furong, deputy director of China's Athens delegation as saying.

On Monday, China's champion male gymnasts managed to reach only fifth place in the team event.

Top men's badminton player Lin Dan was overwhelmed in the first round. Table tennis hero Ma Lin was defeated on Wednesday by 20th-ranked Swede Jan-Ove Waldner.

China has traded youth for experience in this year's games, leaving behind previous champions to prepare better for a glorious show when Beijing plays host to the Olympics in 2008.

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