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Yichang, CHINA – There is an old saying: “As goat racing goes so goes the nation.” Unfortunately, if the favorite pastime of central China is the indicator it is said to be, it seems the nation may be in greater danger than previously expected. “It is quite a bad sign,” said Zhang Xiao Lu, director of the National Goat Racing Association. “In the past few years, when the economy was growing at such a high rate, there would be lines out the door to see the goat races.” Mr. Zhang paused, apparently stifling tears. “But now, the goats lay uselessly in the tracks. Our most famous goat jockey has gone to Vietnam to race, of all places. This sport is China, and now it is failing. Layoffs, pay cuts, concession cutbacks – we have tried everything!”

Goat chariot racing, long seen as a symbol of the country’s great strength and resilience, has in recent times come to represent the stubborn thinking of the past to many people. Some, mostly of the younger generations, have openly questioned the sport, pointing to its questionable ethics and its perpetuation of the glorification of riding in circles, calling for a radical new direction in national priorities. Others simply have been forced to forgo such entertainment to cope with the widening financial crisis. “Times like this put things into perspective,” said one former goat racing fan. “I still have my I [Heart] Goat Racing t-shirt, but I don’t wear it out of the house.”

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