State-run newspapers hailed China’s “Olympic spirit” despite slipping back to second place in the medals table, but some web users claimed that anti-China bias cost the country top spot.
Four years after cleaning up with 51 golds in Beijing, China’s tally dropped to 38 in London, leaving them in second overall behind the United States, who won 46 golds.
China’s most widely circulated newspaper, the People’s Daily, led its front page with a letter of congratulation from the State Council, or cabinet, saying the medal tally “displayed the spirit of the Chinese people”.
The letter called on China’s athletes to “carry on improving their competitive level to build a great sporting power”.
But other newspapers sought to play down China’s sporting ambitions after Chef de mission Liu Peng said the result was “satisfactory” and praised athletes for showing the Olympic values of fair play and sporting behaviour.
The English-language China Daily also said in an editorial that the “journey is more important than the destination”, following concerns that some of China’s athletes had been pushed too hard in the pursuit of gold.
On Sina Weibo — China’s answer to Twitter — the mood was also largely positive, with users keen to praise their country’s performance with comments such as “Great job China!” and “38 gold medals isn’t too bad”.
However, some Internet users claimed China was denied several medals because of bias from Olympic officials, with one asking, “Was this the Olympics with the most refereeing mistakes?”.
Chinese gymnast Chen Yibing’s failure to win gold has proved particularly controversial and a Chinese news report alleging bias had over 700,000 views on the popular video-sharing site Youku by Monday afternoon.
Web users were also angered by what they saw as negative Western media coverage of Chinese athletes — notably the unsubstantiated doping suspicions levelled at the 16-year-old Gold medal-winning swimmer Ye Shiwen.
For others, the focus had already shifted to the Rio Olympics in 2016. “China will perform better in the future. The more medals the better,” one Weibo user wrote.