London 2012: Leeds draws Chinese Olympic focus

Liu Xiang Hurdler Liu Xiang could be among the Chinese team training in Leeds

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With the London 2012 Olympics less than six months away, the Chinese public and its media are showing increasing interest in the Games.

In part, this is due to their fond memories of the Beijing Olympics four years ago. The Chinese Olympic team topped the gold medal tally, beating their arch-rivals, the United States and Russia, into the second and third place.

The spectacular opening ceremony was just the icing on the cake which made them proud.

Another key factor that draws China's attention to the London Olympics is the city of Leeds.

Last August, Leeds signed an agreement to be the Chinese Olympic team's training base ahead of London 2012.

Some 300 Chinese athletes, coaches and support staff in at least 11 sports will descend on the city in early July.

'China in Leeds'

Many young Chinese choose to study in the northern English city: There are around 5,000 Chinese students in Leeds at any time.

As the training base for the Chinese team, Leeds has raised its profile in China through wide media coverage.

Beijing 2008 Olympics opening ceremony (Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images) China held a spectacular Olympics ceremony in 2008 but this year its athletes are heading for Leeds

The BBC Chinese Service published a special cluster covering the joint preparations for the London Olympics between the Chinese Olympics teams and the city of Leeds in early January.

On Sunday, BBCUKChina.com - one of the two websites run by the BBC Chinese - will host a live broadcast from the University of Leeds where the Chinese team will be based.

The "China in Leeds" programme will feature the messages from the Mayor of Hangzhou, the Chinese city twinned with Leeds.

Chinese world champions, the head coach of the Chinese team and officials will brief the 400-strong audience on their latest preparations ahead of London 2012.

£7,000 package

The London Olympics is one of most popular topics in China's vibrant microblog sphere.

By the end of last month, there were more than 500,000 comments about the Games at Sina Weibo, one of China's most popular microblogging platforms.

Hot topics being discussed included Olympic tickets, transportation and accommodation in London, sightseeing and security concerns following last August's riots in London.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Caissa Touristic, China's authorised Olympic tickets seller, has sold out. Those keen to see the Games would need to splash out at least 70,000 yuan (£7,000) for a seven-day package tour, which includes a ticket to just one Olympic event.

Spending on Olympic-related items started early in China. A brooch adorned with London 2012's mascots Wenlock and Mandeville fetches 400 yuan (£40) on taobao.com, China's largest consumer e-commerce website.

China's national sports TV channel, CCTV-5, has a four-stage plan for covering the London Olympics, which started as early as last year, and featured documentaries, interviews and news round-ups.

From 1 July, the channel will rebrand itself as the Olympics Channel, with two more channels, a high-definition and 3D channels covering every Olympic and Paralympic event.

Big internet portals will also live-stream Olympic events - an attraction to many young Chinese.

BBC Chinese is to hold a special broadcast from the Refectory of the University of Leeds at 14.00 GMT on Sunday 5 February. People in the UK can watch live online through www.bbcukchina.com and www.bbcchinese.com. Audiences outside the UK should check www.bbcukchina.com

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