With the Olympics upon us, the question to ask is whether China will top the medal standings once again or whether the United States will wrest it back from its Asian rival.
The real standard is gold and it remains to be seen if the Chinese can repeat that success on foreign soil. In 2004 in Athens, the United States edged it while in 2000, China was emerging as a powerhouse and finished in third place.
Sebastian Coe, the head of London’s Olympic Organizing Committee thinks that China has built on its success four years ago and will take top spot in London.
''I think it will be China, U.S., and then Russia,'' Coe said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''I just think if you look at it, in its entirety, (it will be) China.''
Coe’s reasoning is down to the fact that China is diversifying from the events in which it was traditionally strong.
''Look at the way the Chinese have ranged far wider than some of their staple sports like gymnastics,'' Coe said. ''They have strength in the pool, women's football.”
Coe’s prediction was backed up by Luciano Barra, an Italian who is something of an expert in projecting Olympic medal hauls. Barra thinks China will win 43 gold medals, eight more than the U.S.
USA Today has a running projection that is updated according to the performance of the athletes’ preparation. It too has China occupying the top spot when all is done and dusted.
China’s team is smaller this time round, understandably so. Instead of sending over 600 competitors, it has 396 and there is pressure when you are the top dog.
There was massive funding four years ago and incredible motivation to win on home soil. There have been doubts cast as to whether the country will have the same golden desire in London.
"I'm not sure it is now as politically important as it was, since they did it once," Susan Brownell, professor of anthropology and expert on Chinese sports at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told Reuters in May.
"So I do have the feeling that with the great success of the Beijing Olympics, at least domestically it was hugely successful, that it's not so important to prove themselves anymore," she added.
No doubt however that China is going to be striving to be number one.