August 21, 2008
The International Olympic Committee has ordered an investigation into the age of Chinese gymnast He Kexin, The Times of London reports. Faced with almost insurmountable evidence which suggests that He is two years younger than the birth date listed on her Chinese passport, the IOC has launched an inquiry that could result in the stripping of He's gold medals.
This news comes on the heels of another Times report that details the findings of a New York computer security expert who found official Chinese documents that list He's age as 14 years and 220 days. Mike Walker used a Chinese search engine's cache feature to find He's actual date of birth on spreadsheets from a Chinese government website. The spreadsheets were taken down off the site recently and He's name had been removed.
Assuming the IOC is committed to a real investigation and not some dog and pony show, the revelation that the Chinese government covered up the ages of gymnasts could end up being the defining moment of these Games for the host country. Officials wanted the Olympics to be a coming out party for a new China. But while the Games have been a huge success, there is a legitimate possibility that China's legacy from Beijing '08 will be that of a massive government cover-up, not the magical Opening Ceremony or the transformation of Beijing or anything else positive.
All the good work China did to put on these Olympics could be forgotten because of an unnecessary, arrogant move by the government. Why risk everything to put a 14-year old in the competition when they could have replaced her with an of-age 16-year old gymnast? Sure, He is a better gymnast than the Chinese gymnasts who were eligible to compete, but with the judges they had at the Olympics, would it really have mattered?
Photo via Getty Images
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