China Calls Australian Olympic Athletes ‘Disgraceful’

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 23: Flag bearers Cate Campbell and Patty Mills of Team Australia lead their team in during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times ranted at length on Wednesday against the “disgraceful” behavior of the Australian Olympic team, some of whose members were accused of rowdy conduct that damaged their hotel rooms in Tokyo and “unacceptable behavior” on their flight home.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Tuesday that beds in some of the athletes’ rooms were damaged and a hole was punched in one of the walls. Other reports said the athletes consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, some of which made its way from their stomachs to the walls and floors of the Olympic village suites. Furthermore, life-sized models of the Australian team’s emu and kangaroo mascots mysteriously surfaced in the German quarters of the Olympic village.

“Some young people made a mistake, they had left the rooms in a condition that was unacceptable,” acknowledged Team Australia chief Ian Chesterman. Chesterman described the damage as “minor” and noted it was “not the hardest thing to break the cardboard bed” provided for the rambunctious athletes.

“The rooms were not completely trashed in any way,” he insisted.

Chesterman waxed poetic about the propensity of youth for acting rashly and learning from their mistakes: “It is a book as old as time: a good young person makes a mistake, chapter two is a good, young person is full of remorse. Chapter three is a good young person learns from the mistake and becomes a better person.”

As for the emu and kangaroo, Chesterman said they “enjoyed a pleasant holiday in Deutschland” and “we were very pleased to say they have returned.”

Chesterman did not name the offending athletes, but Rugby Australia announced on Tuesday it was launching its own investigation into “incidents involving the Men’s Sevens program after being informed by the Australian Olympic Committee.” Some members of the rowing team were also reportedly involved.

The Olympic committee also said it received reports of inappropriate behavior on a flight from Tokyo to Sydney on Friday.

China, whose relations with Australia have been strained by the coronavirus pandemic and Australia’s insistence on investigating where it came from, leaped on the incident to savage the “disgraceful exit from Tokyo” of the Aussie team.

According to the Global Times, Chinese “netizens” are brimming with contempt for the rude Australians:

“This not only reflects the quality of the athletes, but also reflects the quality and attitude of the country. Regardless of the conditions provided by the Olympic Village, the athletes should take care of themselves. This is not the behavior that athletes should have,” one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.

“These are the people from a so-called free and democratic country,” another netizen mocked on Sina Weibo. Not only Chinese netizens but many net users abroad criticized the athletes’ behavior on Twitter. 

“Where are their manners? They got to their accommodation in clean condition and the least they can do is not make it into a pig sty,” one netizen wrote on Twitter. 

Chesterman addressed the incident again on Wednesday in somewhat less flippant terms, professing himself “deeply disturbed” by the “clearly unacceptable” behavior of some team members.

“This is a proud team performing brilliantly after a very, very challenging preparation and the vast, vast majority have conducted themselves superbly both on and off the field of play,” he said.

“The rugby and football teams are full of good people, but some have clearly made poor choices, as young people from time to time do,” he said. “I hope and believe in the future they will make better choices.”

Chesterman said the Australian Olympic Committee was notified by Japan Airlines of dubious behavior aboard its flight to Sydney, including “excessive drinking, refusing to wear masks, ignoring cabin crew and one incident of an athlete vomiting in a toilet,” but said the airline did not file a formal complaint.

“As they are traveling as athletes representing their country, we hope they take heed of that fact and behave as such,” Japan Airlines told Kyodo News on Wednesday.

New Zealand’s Olympic team reportedly also misbehaved aboard their flight home on Monday, creating a “party bus” atmosphere rowdy enough to bring the pilot back into the cabin to intervene. The Kiwis apparently got through the flight without vomiting, but they made up for it by throwing used coronavirus masks at the air crew.

“It was all very jovial and light-hearted. All they wanted to do was have a beer and sing,” insisted a New Zealand sporting official who was aboard the plane.

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