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China amasses war chest for London Olympics

CHINA'S Olympic committee banked a US$60 million windfall from last year's Beijing Games and has already raised another US$60 million to fund athletes' preparations for London 2012, officials said yesterday.

China topped the medals table with 51 golds last August and, even in these gloomy economic times, is capitalizing on that success to assemble a huge war chest to help get its athletes ready for the London Games.

To top up its considerable state funding, the Chinese Olympic Committee has rebranded itself and embarked on an ambitious sponsorship program modeled on the International Olympic Committee's lucrative partnership program.

"The start of our post-Olympic marketing has not been good, it's been perfect," Wang Jun, COC vice president, told reporters at a sports marketing summit in Beijing yesterday.

"The sponsorship money we have received so far has exceeded the total of what we had for the Beijing Games, with only two categories of sponsors so far.

"We still have many other categories available, such as banking, cars, insurance, dairy and so on."

The two sponsors already on board are knitwear company Heng Yuan Xiang, which will suit and boot the team for opening ceremonies and the like, and sports equipment manufacturer Anta, which will clothe the athletes for competition. Although they are both Chinese companies, officials said the COC program is open to anybody.

"We treat the domestic and foreign brands equally," said Ma Jilong, COC's marketing head. "The prices are the same for them. They bid for the sponsorship in fair competition."

The US$60 million it received from the Beijing Games was in itself a bonus, Wang said, as the COC had expected only around US$40 million as its share of revenue.

Wang said the funding for this Olympic cycle would not all be focused on the elite end of sports. Investment in sports for the general public ?? the major plank in the Chinese government's sports policy ?? would also have a beneficial effect on the country's burgeoning sports equipment industry, he said.

"The best prospects for China's sports industry lie in the huge demand of the Chinese people's mass participation in sports," Wang said.

"Preliminary statistics show that the sports industry grew more quickly than any other sector in all provinces."


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