July 30, 1996
World yawns at Bailey gold
By STEVE SIMMONS -- At The Olympics
ATLANTA -- In Nigeria, it was soccer.
In Russia, it was the disqualification of a swimmer.
In Spain, it was water polo.
All of it bigger news in those countries than Donovan Bailey's historic record-breaking run Saturday night.
In Switzerland, it was a gold-medal gymnast.
In Chinese Taipei, it was a sixth-place standing in shooting.
"We understand Donovan Bailey is a big story in Canada, but you have to understand, we have a gold medal in water polo,'' said Eduardo Garcia of Ondo Cero radio in Spain. "That is our big story. We have little interest in Donovan Bailey.''
The Olympic Games is a world event chopped into 197 countries, each with its own interests, own agendas and own stories to tell. And while Canadians continue to revel in the remarkable run Bailey made in the 100-metre final, the rest of the world has only mild interest in Canada's newest hero.
The big story in Switzerland, where track and field is popular, centres around Donghua Li, the Chinese-born gymnast who has won a gold medal here. Li was standing one day in Tiananmen Square when a Swiss woman walked by and asked for directions. He smiled. She smiled. A year later, they were married and he was living in Lausanne.
"That has been our biggest story for the Olympics,'' said Nicholas Russi of Sportinformation, a Swiss news agency. "We have written many stories on Li. Normally, the 100 metres would be a big story, but it wasn't this time. The race started at 3 a.m., Swiss time. It was too late for Sunday's paper and old news by Monday's paper.''
In Japan, Bailey's run was fifth-page news. Sports Nippon, a publication that sells 1.8 million papers daily, devoted a quarter of a page to Bailey.
"In Japan, the marathon is very popular,'' said Takashi Yamaguchi, an editor with Sports Nippon. "We had a woman running in the marathon who won a silver medal in Barcelona. We had very high expectations for her. But she won bronze. This was very disappointing.''
When asked about how significant the Bailey story was in Japan, Yamaguchi said: "Compared to Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, it's not biggie, biggie.''
In Nigeria, there was a large amount of coverage of the 100-metre final, but almost none of it was about Bailey.
"To be frank, the most popular athlete in Nigeria is Frankie Fredericks,'' said Joseph Okujeni of the Guardian newspaper chain in Nigeria. "When he came second, it was heartbreaking news at home.
"That was one big story. The other big story for us is our (soccer) team. They have made it to the semi-finals.''
The most captivating story for Australia in these Games has been Kieran Perkins, the world record-holding swimmer. In the semi-final heat of his specialty, the 1,500 metres, Perkins snuck in as the eighth and final qualifier. Something clearly was wrong with him.
"Australians were preparing for the worst,'' said Peter Christopher of the Sydney Morning Herald. "Here was one of the great athletes of our time and we were expecting disaster.''
But in the final, Perkins became the only Olympic champion to emerge from Lane 8.
"It's one of the those stories people will talk about for years,'' said Christopher. "And you know, the blokes at NBC didn't even bother to put it on TV.''
The Olympic idealists will have you believe the purpose of the Games is to bring nations together. But that isn't so. The purpose of the Games is for us to win and for the rest of the world to lose. We want Canadian stories.
Donovan Bailey ran the fastest 100 metres since Ben Johnson was disqualified in Seoul, in world-record time. But for the most part, Canadians are the only ones who care.
The U.S. won no medal in the 100. Great Britain saw its hero, Linford Christie, disqualified.
It is a matter of national perspective.
"We had no coverage of Donovan Bailey,'' said Ji Ren Tsaur of CTS, a newspaper in Chinese Taipei. "I must apologize, but tell me again ... who is this Donovan Bailey you ask about?''