If you strip out the steroids (alleged and otherwise) there are many troubling aspects of the Chinese sporting system. We know of young people who have been uprooted from their homes and placed in provincial centres where they are used as fodder in the great experiment. Those who excel are taken to the heavily-secured National Centre in Beijing. I saw one adolescent collapse with exhaustion in the badminton hall before being ordered back into play. There are armies of back-ups should the frontline find the going too tough.

They might top the medals table but Matthew Syed thinks the price of China’s success is too high


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