5 December 2023

False: Olympics medal table with China on top is neither official nor authentic

Misleading medal tables that show China with the most number of golds are doctored images.


An Instagram user posted a screenshot of what appears to be Weibo’s official Olympics medal table that puts China on top with 42 gold medals.

The image groups three separate teams — Hong Kong, Macao and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) — under China. The post reads, when translated to English, “How far will they go to rank first?”

This was posted on Aug. 8, the last day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and has gained over 17,000 likes.

The same image or similar ones (here, here and here) can also be found on social media including Facebook, Weibo and Douyin.

A Facebook post claimed it was Weibo itself that changed the grouping method in order to make China come on top of the chart.

However, these images do not show the official table. They have been edited to look authentic.

In the Tokyo Olympics, China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei are three separate teams.

China won 38 golds while Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei won one and two golds, respectively. Even if the gold medal counts could be added up, the total should be 41 gold medals, not 42 as the doctored images indicate.

According to the International Olympics Council (IOC), the United States of America topped the medal tally with 39 golds at the end of the Tokyo Games.

China had been leading the tally but was overtaken by the U.S. on the last day.

Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, congratulated Team USA on Twitter for ranking the first.

The Chinese Olympics Committee also stated that the U.S. topped the medal chart.

With reverse image search and keyword search, the earliest appearance of the misleading table Annie Lab could find was from a user-generated post on Weibo that reads, “Created a gold medal table. Attention everyone. Share this one from now on! (做了个#金牌榜# ,各单位注意,以后就按照这个发! ​​​)​”

The misleading Weibo post uploaded at 13:44 on Aug. 8 telling others to share this image which added up China’s gold medal count with Hong Kong’s and Chinese Taipei’s.

The official table made by Weibo Sports can be found here. Annie Lab believes this is the source material for the misleading images.

As shown below, the team names and medal counts are different between the authentic one and a doctored version.

Annie Lab also found a screenshot of the authentic Weibo table posted by a user a couple of minutes earlier than the first doctored image with the false claim.

The numbers (orange, right) and Chinese characters (orange, left) are not the same as the original website (green).

As for Macao, it has never been allowed to participate in the Summer Olympics Games, as this Special Administrative Region of China is not a member of the IOC, unlike Hong Kong.

The misleading images seem to have encouraged other users to make similar claims.

For example, this post on Reddit makes fun of China’s “double standards” with a satirical cartoon originally posted on Instagram, even though China has never officially grouped the three teams together.

A satirical cartoon found on Reddit.

The postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 started on July 23 and ended on Aug. 8, 2021.

[Added on Aug 13, 2021]

A user on VK, a Russian social media platform, has posted a similar medal table in Russian showing China topping the table with 41 golds together with Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. This image was included in a viral post on Weibo later on, gaining more than 20,000 likes and nearly 4,500 shares. 

The post, when translated to English, reads, “Tokyo Olympic Games medal table made by the Russians. There is nothing wrong with China being number one.”

The claim is also false although some users seem to have believed the chart is officially recognized in Russia. The medal table published by TASS, the Russian federal news agency, shows the US ranking on top with 39 gold medals while China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei are classified as three different teams.