With the United States and China both sitting atop the 2012 London Olympics medal table, it may be safe to say that these two countries are forming a new 21st century rivalry for Olympic supremacy.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the United States would win the most overall medals, 110-100, China would win the most golds, 51-36. China, who currently leads the United States in both overall medals, 61-60 and in gold medals 30-28, have been in a back-and-forth see-saw battle for Olympic supremacy.
It’s a classic clash of East vs West, capitalism against communism and the world’s reigning superpower in the United States against the world’s largest economic monolith in China.
With the Olympics about to head into their second—and final—week, fans from Shanghai to New York may be witnessing the birth of a true East-West rivalry rooted in both politics and current economic circumstances, being born in the biggest international stage of all.
Thanks their multi-billion investment in sports in the last decade, China has managed to stay level with the United States in swimming, table tennis, gymnastics and weight lifting.
China would see badminton player Yu Yang sent home for throwing matching on purpose, Yu Shiwen accused of doping after posting an Olympic-record 58.68 seconds in the 400m individual medley, and see a gold snatched away from Guo Shaung and Gong Jinjie in track cycling.
The United States still has men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and swimming in hopes of surpassing the Chinese. The seeds for the US-China rivalry may have been planted during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, the United States and China would engage in an epic scoreless draw.
In front of more than 90,000-plus inside the Rose Bowl, and more than two billion worldwide, the United States would emerge victorious, 5-4 on penalty kicks, thanks to Brandi Chastain’s goal. In 2002, Yao Ming would be selected first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.
At 7’6 and 310 pounds, Ming would become a national hero in his native China and become the first—and most well-known Asian to ever play in the NBA. Thanks to Ming, other Chinese-born players such as Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi would follow behind and Taiwanese-American point guard, Jeremy Lin would become an overnight sensation while playing for the New York Knicks.
With Lin becoming a role model for both native Chinese and Chinese-born Americans, the US-China dynamic has more interwoven subplots than a Tom Clancy novel, and with China currently being the largest holder of U.S. debt at $1.2 trillion, one can see why both the United States and China will forever be linked.
While this new rivalry will never reach the heights of the US-Soviet Union during the Cold War, thanks to the globalization of sports by Nike and the likes of future 2030 NBA Rookie Of The Year, Meng Ling , Beijing and Washington will be sparring for Olympic supremacy for years to come.