According to legend, the Jade Emperor decreed that the order of the Chinese zodiac calendar would be decided by the order in which the 12 animals arrived to his great gathering. The wiley Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride and, just as they neared the finish line, Rat leaped down and landed ahead of Ox, winning first place by devious effort. Thus, the Rat was declared the winner, standing highest on the podium of time.

This story may be the perfect allegory for modern sport. Alongside the Olympic ideals of peaceful competition and collaboration, over the past few years we’ve witnessed the corrupt side of sport — from doping to bribery. And now the Year of the Rat coincides with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.