Straighten up and fly right, selectors told

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am

The mainland's sports minister issued a stern warning yesterday to officials to avoid corrupt practices in the selection of athletes for the Games.

Liu Peng (pictured), the head of the General State Sports Administration, said officials involved with national teams in all the 28 Olympic sports should adhere to the principles of 'fairness and openness' in selecting the men and women who will do battle for Olympic glory in August, reported the China Sports Daily. 'We must boost supervision of the selection process, especially in sports where China has a traditional dominance,' said Liu. 'We have to make sure the overall selection campaign is trouble-free.'

Unlike many other sports powers, China's Olympic selectors do not base their selection decisions solely on results of pre-Games performances. Olympic berths are usually designated to athletes after intense behind-the-scenes politicking and horse-trading among provincial sports authorities, who have their incomes and promotion prospects tied to the number of Olympic medals - in some cases the sheer number of Olympic berths - won by athletes under their jurisdiction.

The stakes are particularly high in sports such as table tennis and diving, where most Chinese athletes are in a league of their own with very little foreign competition. The selection processes in these disciplines have been topics of contention at the past few Olympics and complaints of foul play were common.

Despite Liu's warning, some officials of the country's national teams appear unwilling to base their selections on form only.

'We would refer to the results of the trials,' said Zhou Jihong, head coach of the Chinese diving team last weekend. 'But we would also factor in other consideration before deciding.'