The media gave a hand in securing Yao Ming his position as the flag bearer of the Chinese delegation at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games opening ceremony, a top Chinese sports official said yesterday.
"Yao Ming has a close relationship with the media, he is skillful in answering questions and providing journalists with good quotes," said Li Furong, deputy chef-de-mission of the Chinese delegation, when elaborating the decisions to pick up Yao as the flag bearer. "As I know, the international media has praised him a lot."
"Playing in the NBA, Yao also impressed American and international fans with his good sportsmanship and great co-operation with teammates," Li added. "He is both a great player and a good man.
"Taking many aspects of the matter into consideration, Yao is the best choice to carry the flag."
Li also said he had been watching all of the televised games of Yao in the NBA.
Xiao Tian, secretary-general of the Chinese Sports Delegation, revealed on Monday that Yao would carry the flag for China at tomorrow's opening ceremony.
"He is a man of integrity and has good sense of humor," Xiao said."Yao is very popular among Chinese kids and represents the image of the younger generation."
In the past five Olympic Games, the Chinese flag-bearers all came from the men's basketball team despite a string of poor Olympic results posted by the roundballers whose best ever finish was eighth place.
All of them stood over 2 metres with five out of six playing as centres.
(China Daily August 12, 2004)