In 2008, I wrote a column explaining why I thought Beijing was an inappropriate venue for that year’s Summer Olympic Games. I cited health risks: the city’s terrible pollution and the country’s corrupt food supply chain. I also noted that the “only gold medals count” mentality of the Chinese government was antithetical to the spirit of the Olympics themselves.
Everything I wrote was already well-known. The air in Beijing was infamously foggy with contaminants. The director of the State Food and Drug Administration had just been executed – yes, put to death – for accepting bribes and egregious dereliction of duty. Chinese athletes openly spoke about how the governing bodies of their respective sports considered silver medals to be worthless.