New Tigers

Updated: Aug 31 2004, 05:30am hrs
The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is once again giving the US sleepless nights. Not content with challenging American supremacy in the global marketplace, it is now setting itself up to end US hegemony in the sporting world.

The US did top the medals tally at Athens but ended four golds poorer than in Sydney. While the PRC was four golds richer. More importantly, the Dragon ended up breathing down Uncle Sams neck this year, having swapped places with Sydneys runner-up, Russia.

Chinas performance was even more commendable since more than 80% of its squad members were making their debut this Games.

Of course, its not only China which has set tongues wagging at the close of the worlds greatest sporting event.

In year 2000, it was the only Asian country in the Top 10. This time round, South Korea and Japan give it company, bumping Cuba and Holland out in the process.

South Korea, which came in 12th in the overall medals tally in Sydney, finished 9th while Japan has simply astonished Nippon-watchers.

That country has come from nowhere to upstage Olympian Goliaths, Germany, France and Italy. No wonder, the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge chose to describe Japanese and Chinese performances as the awakening of Asia.

And lets not forget East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq who merit mention for simply being there.

Reasons enough for the IOC chief to publicly state that Asia would be at full strength at Beijing 08. Yet, theres more from where that came.

HSBC strategists have correlated Japans flood of medals this year with that nation staging an economic recovery.

If the relationship between economic fortunes and sporting prowess is indeed robust, then the worlds fastest growing economy, China, is clearly headed for the numero uno slot in four years time.

Especially given the US sluggish growth prospects over the same period! Add to that, the fact that the host nation high on a mammoth dose of national pride will pull out all stops between now and year 08, with a battle-hardened squad.

Japan and India too can only improve, given their economic health forecasts. The Asian Tigers are dead. Time to hail the new Asian tigers