Aug 07, 2012 2:05 PM GMT
According to local media reports, the cost of grooming China’s new Olympic swimming star, Sun Yang, amounted to 10 million yuan ($1.57 million) over the past two years. That’s 5 million yuan per gold medal, for those keeping track at home.
Chinese Internet users are asking: has it all been worth it?
“No matter what, he showed us results!” wrote a Shanghai-based user on Sina Corp.’s popular Weibo microblogging service.
Others seem more skeptical. “It’s time to reform China’s sports system,” one said.
China Real Time attempted to confirm whether the local reports were accurate, but the Chinese Swimming Association referred calls to Mr. Sun and the swimming staff, who are in London for the games and couldn’t be reached for comment
If this argument sounds familiar, that’s because it first took place on a much larger scale four years go, when China spent an estimated $42 billion to dazzle the world. The question isn’t really whether China can afford it – the latest estimate of China’s currency reserve hoard alone puts it at a staggering $3.2 trillion. Based on those funds and the market rates implied by the local media reports, the People’s Republic theoretically has the financial firepower to easily underwrite 4.07 million more gold medals.
Instead, the question hinges on whether China has better things to spend its money on. This week the state-run Xinhua news agency trumpeted the formation of a social security network, the beginning of the creation of a social safety net in a nation where many have little access to health care or retirement support. Meanwhile, its population is aging, and expenses for retirees already consume about 60% of China’s health-care resources, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.