Sept 1 (Reuters) - China’s Olympic gold medallists have been rewarded with lavish gifts by the state, including cash bonuses and luxury sea-front apartments, local media reported on Saturday.
Real estate companies in particular have been lining up to sponsor athletes by furnishing them with new housing after their success at last month’s London Games.
Chinese swimmers Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen both received apartments worth 3 million yuan ($472,600) from a company in their hometown of Hangzhou, according to the China Daily.
Hangzhou also plans to build statues for the swimmers to honour their efforts at the Olympics.
Double gold medallist Sun, who broke the men’s 1,500 metres world record, was named “Zhejiang Model Worker” and given 2.6 million yuan, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Ye, who also won two gold medals in London, received the same title as well as 1.8 million yuan.
Table tennis player Zhang Jike, from the coastal city Qingdao, Shandong province, was presented with a 120 square metre apartment with a sea view.
Li Xuerui, who won the women’s badminton gold in London, will move out of the small house she shared with her parents and into a 100 square metre flat in Chongqing.
Estate agents hope to sell property to prospective buyers by enticing them to become ‘the neighbour of Olympic champions’ in their adverts.
China won 38 gold, 27 silver and 23 bronze at the London Olympic Games to finish second behind the United States in the medals table.
Hurdler Liu Xiang triggered the wave of athlete-chasing agencies after winning the 110 metres hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
His income from sponsorship in 2005 was reported to be more than 460 million yuan.
The athletes have also been royally paid for their achievements in bringing Olympic glory to China at the London Games.
During a visit to Hong Kong and Macao last week, Olympic champions also pocketed HK$25.2 million ($3.25 million) from Hong Kong entrepreneurs.
They also bagged another HK$10.2 million from the government of the Macao Special Administrative Region.
China began rewarding Olympic athletes in 1984 when the country participated for the first time after regaining its seat on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1979.
Each gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics earned athletes 6,000 yuan. The bonus rose to 15,000 yuan at the Seoul Games in 1988. It had reached 200,000 yuan by Athens in 2004.
The rewards for the 2008 Beijing Games were kept secret but the amount is believed to be much bigger. China topped the medal count in Beijing. ($1 = 7.7563 Hong Kong dollars) ($1 = 6.3484 Chinese yuan) (Writing by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Patrick Johnston)