China's flag bearer to be "tall, handsome, influential"
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Olympic flag bearer will be tall, handsome and famous to provide a positive image of the Asian sporting superpower, according to the team's deputy chef de mission.
The flag bearer's identity has been protected as jealously as a state secret in China, where media have speculated that hurdles gold medalist Liu Xiang or world champion distance swimmer Sun Yang could be handed the honor for Friday's opening ceremony.
"You will get a pleasant surprise when the name of the flag bearer is announced soon," deputy chef de mission Xiao Tian told state media at Beijing airport on Tuesday, before jetting to London with a group of officials.
"The flag bearer should well represent the image of China," said Xiao. "He or she needs to have an impressive record in sports, be tall, handsome and influential."
China's retired NBA basketballer Yao Ming carried the flag at the Beijing Games and local media have suggested the Dallas Mavericks' Yi Jianlian could also take on the role.
At 1.89 meters tall, hurdler Liu, a hot contender to win a second 110 meters hurdles gold at Olympic Park, would certainly fit the tall and famous criteria, but dodged the hoopla of Beijing's opening ceremony and may be spared the parade in London.
Liu would not be spared expectations of a good run in London, having pulled out injured before his heats at Beijing, which stunned a massive crowd at the "Bird's Nest" stadium into silence, Xiao suggested.
"As an Olympic veteran, Liu Xiang has got maturer and he is supposed to have a good run in London," he said.
China would also expect success in its usual strong sports like badminton, weightlifting, diving, gymnastics and shooting, Xiao added.
"These are the sports China is traditionally good at," he said. "We have put in a lot of investments and of course we are expecting payback."
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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