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Sports News

Online traders launch "Phelpsean" bid for gold

BEIJING (Reuters) - Online traders are racing to cash in on the Beijing Olympics by selling items related to gold medal winners, ranging from a $1 million price tag on the domain name “Phelpsean” to $4,000 for five pairs of basketballers’ shoes.

A combination photo shows Michael Phelps holding each of his eight gold medals in the swimming competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Staff (CHINA)

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at Beijing making him the most successful Olympian ever, was the hottest target for dealers on Internet auction sites.

Karen Bard, a spokeswoman for eBay, said the number of items related to 23-year-old Phelps had soared 738 percent in the past 30 days.

“One of the highest priced sold items was an autographed Olympic Speedo swim cap from a special appearance he did in Baltimore in 2004. It sold for $645,” she told Reuters via email.

She said 19,755 Olympic items had been sold in the past 90 days with the top price of $6,000 paid for a ticket to the Olympics opening ceremony in the Bird’s Nest stadium on Aug 8.

Ahead of the Games ending on Sunday, the most expensive item on offer related to Phelps was the sale of all domains -- such as .com, .org, .us, .info, .tv, .mobi -- for the word “Phelpsean.”

Seller Wolfram Gauglitz, a corporate consultant from Dallas, Texas, said he derived the word from Herculean and suggested it meant having enormous strength, courage, or size of or pertaining to Michael Phelps or his incredible accomplishments.

“Since Hercules is the Greek ideal for strength and courage, and was said to have founded the Olympic games to honor Zeus, ‘Phelpsean’ was a no-brainer,” said Gauglitz who snapped up the domain names on the day Phelps won his eighth gold.

“Do I think phelpsean.com will fetch $1 million? I think it’s worth far more than $1 million to someone out there.”

Bard wasn’t so sure but the sale was valid under eBay rules.

“As far as the URL in question, it is not in violation of our policies. However, it is certainly a very steep price for someone to potentially pay,” she said.

One seller on Chinese auction site Taobao.com was asking 12,000 yuan ($1,750) for Phelps’s signature.

Another was seeking 10,000 yuan for a ball signed by all the members of the Chinese women’s volleyball team who won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics but lost in the semi-finals in Beijing.

Five pairs of signed basketball shoes worn by U.S. players LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul in practices leading up to the Beijing Games were up for sale with a suggested price of $4,000.

“These were obtained by a source close to the players while they were in Vegas practicing,” wrote the seller.

But not all online sales relating to Beijing athletes were to benefit sellers with some being sold for charity.

Humanitarian group Right To Play is auctioning a range of memorabilia donated by Olympians to raise money for the group that promotes sport as a tool for children’s development in poverty-stricken countries and nations in conflict.

Items for auction include a signed flag bearer’s sash from the opening ceremony from Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden and a signed Swiss tennis uniform from Timea Bacsinszky.

For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" at here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china

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