At Liu Xiang’s departure, Chinese netizens receive validation as the court of public opinion

By: spambot on 18 August 2008
Posted in China, Asia

The press conference held shortly after injured Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang dropped out of the Olympics on August 18 was broadcast on all 5 CCTV channels dedicated to Games-related coverage. Since his surprise win in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Liu has been a superstar in China. An atmosphere of bereavement permeated the aftermath, and at the press conference his obviously distraught trainer Sun Haiping couldn’t stop himself from sobbing.

Interestingly, some of the parlay between reporters and Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese athletic team, involved the Internet as purveyor of the “Chinese street.” Although stressing that the severity of Liu's injury made it impossible for him to compete, Feng acknowledged that Liu was under a great deal of pressure, one contributing factor being that any time he went online he would see the frenzy being stirred over him. Another foreign journalist asked how the Chinese people are going to take the loss of the 'poster boy' for their Olympic hopes; in response Feng cited how many friends on the Internet were expressing understanding for Liu (this being mere hours after Liu limped off the field). Chinese netizens as stand-ins for the court of public opinion were cited once more, as Feng justified this blow to the Chinese Olympic team by citing an Internet 'investigation' finding that 60 percent, or more than half, of people surveyed would understand if Liu didn’t win gold.

Meanwhile, an attempt to access this article about the press conference from the Beijing International Media Center (the main press venue for non-IOC accredited journalists) resulted in a reset connection.