You’ve probably seen the weeping and gnashing of teeth in Beijing relating to their star athlete Liu Xiang. Xiang was due to compete in the 110m hurdles but pulled out, ensuring a maelstrom of dramatic soundbites from his utterly inconsolable coach. Chinese spectators fled the Bird’s Nest Stadium in despair at this loss. When I saw a muted clip of Mr Coach covering his tear streaked face I thought there’d been a Munich part 2. No no, justan athlete failing to live up to the hype. Ireland knows that feeling well.
Anyway, Nike is Xiang’s sponsor. They backed him up following his pull out and put on a spectacular show of support, placing ads in Chinese national papers proclaiming “Love sport even when it breaks your heart”. I must say I did get a wee bit carried away with all of this. The crying, the passionate coach, the broken hearted star who needs to win back the love of his people. I could write you the screenplay in half an hour.
An interesting twist in the story has emerged. Marina Hyde in today’s Guardian Sportblog tells us that an anonymous Chinese blogger is being hunted for claiming that Nike forced the hurdler to pull out as they knew he wouldn’t win and didn’t want to risk their sponsorship reputation.
I’m not part of the Naomi Klein brigade on this issue. I’m a sometime fashion whore. I own 5 pairs of Nike shoes, a few bags and several items of clothing. I have followed their record of atoning for their sweatshop sins and approved of their progress. This is a kick in my naive face. To know that Nike have contacted the Chinese Government to track down someone who has made a mildly unsettling statement about an odd turn of events is the ultimate corporate irresponsibility.
Here’s a nice little slogan from a 1992 Nike campaign that there marketing squad might like to have a nosey at…
Too often we are scared. Scared of what we might not be able to do. Scared of what people might think if we tried. We let our fears stand in the way of our hopes. We say no when we want to say yes. We sit quietly when we want to scream. And we shout with the others, when we should keep our mouths shut. Why? After all,we do only go around once. There’s really no time to be afraid. So stop. Try something you’ve never tried. Risk it. Enter a triathlon. Write a letter to the editor. Demand a raise. Call winners at the toughest court. Throw away your television. Bicycle across the United States. Try bobsledding. Try anything. Speak out against the designated hitter. Travel to a country where you don’t speak the language. Patent something. Call her.You have nothing to lose and everything everything everything to gain. JUST DO IT.