Sunday, October 24, 2004

# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD ROLE MODELS: I wasn't going to write about this story, but it upset my Chinese roommates so much that I figured it must be big news.

So, it turns out that Liu Xiang, China's surprise gold medalist in the 110m hurdles, has signed an endorsement deal with China's #1 cigarette maker.

But hold off before you criticize Liu, because I smell a rat. It turns out that
The official government-backed Track and Field Association has sole right to negotiate product endorsements for the country's athletes, with income split between athletes and the group.
Sounds to me like some bureaucrat is trying to cash in on this national hero's reputation. On a less important but more amusing note, check out this Orwellian statement about the endorsement deal from the CEO of the cigarette manufacturer:
Everyone likes Liu Xiang and hopes he will 'soar' higher and faster, and maintain his sunny, healthy, progressive image.
Sort of like Joe Camel in gym shorts.

UPDATE: Reader DM points out that Baisha, China's #1 cigarette maker, also makes other products. His comment led me to re-read the two articles I linked to above, neither of which explicitly says that Liu Xiang will be endorsing cigarettes.

Instead, Liu will serve as an "image ambassador" for Baisha, which both AP and the BBC describe as China's biggest cigarette maker, with no mention of other products. Moreover, the headline of the BBC article is "Hurdler Xiang to Back Cigaretttes". So did the Beeb confuse its own headline writers, or does it know more about Baisha than it's letting on? (And isn't the guy's surname 'Liu'?)
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