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Focus On Gold, Not Riches


Sir Rols
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BEIJING - The face of the champion Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang looks out from billboards advertising Coca-Cola, Nike, Visa and many more. But China's sports ministry announced yesterday (Thursday) that Mr Liu's lucrative sponsorship days are over, at least until after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The ministry said that it wanted China's athletes to focus on gold medals, not on more material rewards, to ensure the nation achieved its best result at the Games in August 2008.

Liu Peng, the Sports Minister, said: "All the athletes, including those big stars, are forbidden from taking part in all kinds of social activities to avoid distractions from training."

He added: "We face a very stern test at the 2008 Olympics. Everybody should stay focused."

Commercial endorsements risked distracting athletes and were forbidden.

Only those who sought permission from the ministry might be considered for an exception.

China is determined that the Beijing Olympics will be the moment when it eclipses the United States as the world's top sporting power.

China finished second in the medal table at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Those were the Olympics at which hurdler Liu won gold in the 110 metres and found himself a national star overnight.

At Chinese airports, posters for Visa credit cards bear his image. His face is also found on advertisements for domestic courier service EMS, as well as those promoting Yili milk and selling KIA cars.

Liu's lucrative commercial endorsements earned him more than dollars 3 million last year. Half the money goes to the athlete and the rest to the state, which covers all costs of training China's athletes. However, those sums are being seen as irrelevant when compared with the chance for gold.

Wei Hanfeng, editor of Sports Pictorial magazine, said: "When compared with a gold medal, sports authorities see the money from sponsorship as just too small to bother with."

Some athletes have already paid a price. Double Olympic champion diver Tian Liang, 27, was expelled from the national team after the Athens Olympics in 2004, accused of skipping training to attend to his commercial obligations. His sponsorships ranged from soft drinks and electric bicycles to seafood snacks and running machines.

He remains in exile from the national squad.

Olympic champion swimmer Luo Xuejuan, 22, has been overlooked by national selectors for the Asian Games next month. She had become the face of a shampoo brand.

Even Liu has come in for criticism. Wei Jizhong, the former secretary-general of China's Olympic Committee, singled him out for criticism recently. He said: "Liu's commercial endorsements create a negative influence."

THE TIMES

It sure looks like China's determined to top the mdal tally!

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It sure looks like China's determined to top the mdal tally!

Well, I read a news article before about this Chinese gold weightlifting medalist who became a cleaner in one of the public bathhouse. IWeightlifters spend so much time training that they didn't have very high education (sometimes just primary level). Once they leave the national team, they are left on their own with no skills to guarantee them a decent job. Not only that, because she spends so much time training, her body is full of injuries and after effects of the drugs.

I see commercialism better off for the atheletes actually.

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