Who are Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi? Athletes 'probed' for wearing Mao badges at Olympics
Two Chinese athletes, Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi, will be probed by Olympic chiefs after they wore badges over their tracksuits featuring an image of Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong while receiving their Gold medals. Shanju, 23, and Tianshi, 30, won the women's sprint in the track cycling on Monday, August 2. According to reports, the athletes could be investigated for a breach of Olympic Charter Rule 50, which prohibits political statements on the podium.
The incident comes a day after US shot putter Raven Saunders made an unusual gesture during the medal ceremony. The 25-year-old athlete raised her arms in an 'X' formation over her head, while posing for photographers. Saunders' gesture was interpreted as a form of protest, which goes against the Olympic policy of ban on protests during medal ceremonies.
It was unclear as of Tuesday, August 3, if there was any connection between the Mao pins wore by the Chinese athletes and the shot-put medal ceremony. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said, "We have contacted the Chinese Olympic Committee, asked them for a report about the situation." The communist leader, Mao Zedong, who founded the People's Republic of China in 1949, is an iconic figure in the country even after 45 years of his death in 1976. People wore badges showing Mao's profile in the 1960s to show their loyalty to the Communist Party chairman. China's current leader, Xi Jinping invoked Mao's image in an attempt to promote his own status. In an event last month, Xi appeared on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing in a gray Mao jacket similar to one worn by the former leader in a nearby portrait overlooking the square.
The IOC said in a statement that it has asked the Chinese National Olympic Committee to investigate the incident and determine whether it violated Rule 50. After the win, Tianshi said, "It feels very good because for the last few years I’ve been feeling very, very bad, and I’ve had a lot of problems.”