China’s national games haven’t even officially started yet, but they are already the backdrop for an ugly scandal in one of the country’s most treasured sports. Don’t worry–diving queen Guo Jingjing’s piles of Olympic gold aren’t in jeopardy. But the integrity of the sport’s biggest domestic competition was shaken when a referee quit working the national games because, she says, the result are all fixed.
The national games diving competition takes place before most of the rest of the action, and before the games’ opening ceremony. According to domestic media reports, the judge said she could no longer take part in a competition that she asserts is a complete sham. The official reason for her resignation was illness.
“I am leaving early, not only because I am sick, but also because I’m fed up with the shadiness in diving this year,” said the referee, given the pseudonym “Ma Ming” by the media. “To my surprise, all of the gold medals are decided internally ahead of time.”
“Ma Ming” gave no concrete evidence for the allegations, but she did tell reporters on October 10 which athletes would win the next four gold medals, and–surprise, surprise–all of her picks were correct. She also pointed to the men’s 10-meter synchro event as an example of competition fixing.
The woman behind the fixed results, according to “Ma,” is Zhou Jihong, the head of the diving federation and deputy director for Chinese aquatics. According to “Ma,” she has enough power to subtly let her wishes be known and then sit back and watch the results play out the way she designed:
“…if she so much as slightly reveals her intentions, someone will take care of everything for her. As an official at these national games, I have more than once heard another referee say: ‘This gold medal the leader already decided must be given to so-and-so.’ Currently in the Chinese diving world, only Zhou Jihong can make these decisions.”
In a national games press conference, Zhou insisted that the judge quit only because of illness and was quick to dismiss the allegations:
“Whether it’s international competition, or Olympics, world championships, whatever, before the competition there are always predictions. It is normal for some of these predictions to come true.”
Though “Ma” asserts that Zhou Jihong has the final say in meet results now, apparently she hasn’t always gotten her way. In 2005, “diving prince” Tian Liang mounted a comeback of sorts at the National Games. After the 2004 Olympics in Athens, in which he won a gold and a bronze medal, Tian Liang—known as the “diving prince” and at the time, the boyfriend of Guo Jingjing–was kicked off the national team for putting too much energy into commercial projects. The disgraced Tian Liang won a gold medal at the 2005 games, and according to “Ma,” a 55-year-old veteran who worked that event, his win went against the wishes of Zhou Jihong.
For more on the diving corruption scandal and other Chinese sports news, check out China Sports Today.
Zhou Jihong image: News.QQ.com