China is set to field its largest Olympic team to date in Beijing next year, Sports Bureau vice-director Cui Dalin has announced.
Cui said a total of 498 Chinese athletes from 202 events had qualified and it is thought another 50 to 70 will join them by next August.
The delegation will be significantly bigger than past teams, after 345 athletes were sent to the 2004 Athens Games and about 300 to Sydney seven years ago.
But China will not be the biggest squad next year because the US Olympic Committee (USOC) plans to send a team of about 600 athletes.
Despite the strongest ever delegation, Cui has been humble on China's Olympic future, admitting that Project 119, a development regime to harvest more medals from swimming, canoeing and athletics, had all but failed.
"We have put a lot of effort in since announcing the project by employing foreign coaches and sending the players to as many international events as we can," he said during a press conference in August.
"But to be frank, we have made very few improvements."
At the 2004 Athens Games, the US edged China by three golds to rank first overall with 35, but at last year's world championships the US ranked second in the cumulative medal count, with 36 to China's 43.
Russia was a close third with 35.
American athletes won 25 events in Athens in athletics, swimming and aquatic sports -- more than half their total haul. China snared just four in those sports: in the men's 110m hurdles, the women's 10,000m track, the 100m breaststroke in women's swimming and the men's C2 canoeing.
Cui said he had given up the idea of catching up to the US next year.
(China Daily September 28, 2007)