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Critics pounce on China's gaffe of Olympian proportions

The National staff  |  September 9, 2013

People sitting in formation of the words ‘thank you’ in Tokyo on Sunday after Saturday’s vote. Kyodo / Reuters
People sitting in formation of the words ‘thank you’ in Tokyo on Sunday after Saturday’s vote. Kyodo / Reuters

BEIJING // Chinese internet users on Sunday mocked state media for mistakenly reporting Istanbul would host the 2020 Olympic Games, the latest in a series of gaffes by the government-backed press.

Xinhua News Agency reported that Istanbul had won, while state television ran a headline during a live broadcast saying “Tokyo eliminated”.

Tokyo was the eventual winner. Both reports were later withdrawn, but continued to circulate in internet postings. “They made fools of themselves,” said Yan Tao on Sina Weibo, a microblog service which is China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Xinhua apparently mistook a vote by International Olympic Committee members to decide whether Istanbul or Madrid would advance in the voting after a first-round tie, which the Turkish city won.

“Liars must be held accountable, otherwise it’s not fair,” said another who gave the name McMonkey, referring to an ongoing government crackdown on people who spread rumours on the internet.

In another case, the People’s Daily newspaper last year reported the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been named 2012’s “Sexiest Man Alive”, after treating a spoof award by the satirical US website The Onion as genuine.

Some internet comments in China, whose capital Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games, had an anti-Japanese tone as the two countries are locked in a territorial dispute.

Both Beijing and Tokyo claim islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyus by China and the Senkakus by Japan, which administers them. Wartime history also is a sore point between the neighbours, including the 1937 “Nanjing Massacre”.

– Agence France-Presse