Who needs gold when we have Fu? China’s young Olympics fans focus on fun, not medal tally

Younger generation cares more about human interest and humour than medals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 9:31am

No parade in Tiananmen Square and no chants of “unite and revive China” to celebrate a gold this time. Winning medals in Rio still matters, but the Olympics are also about having fun.

Although the victory by the women’s volleyball team may have reminded some Chinese of their days of equating sports ­success and national pride in the 1980s, a new generation of Games watchers just wrote a message of fewer than 140 words to express their joy, or clicked “like” on social media.

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Complaints about rude rivals, unfair judges and poor performances that left China out of the top two in the medal tally for the first time in 16 years can still be heard at times.

But most internet users tend to be less obsessed with the gold, and more into human interest and humour.

Table tennis used to be the national sport of China, and have considerable political importance. But in Rio, the invincible table tennis team trended on social media not by sweeping all four golds available, but with jokes about the players’ nicknames, given by Japanese television shows, and the fashion sense of the women’s team in its reflective pink one-piece jersey.

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Young people talk admiringly online about diver Qin Kai’s marriage proposal to teammate He Zi after she won a silver, and openly express their affection for the perfectly-built body of swimmer Ning Zetao, despite the fact he did not even get through to the finals.

“Olympics should be about fun,” one weibo user wrote.

It was therefore unsurprising that bronze-winning backstroke specialist Fu Yuanhui attracted tens of millions of followers, far more than any gold medallist at this year’s Games.

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Fu’s funny remarks immediately became viral catchphrases online, and her sassy facial expressions inspired Chinese netizens to produce a string of amusing emojis.

Her frank remarks about menstruating also broke a taboo in sport, and prompted feminist discussions online.

“We admire gold medallists but we love her,” one of her internet followers wrote.