Beijing's 'gold rush' at Silk Street
Updated: 2008-08-19 09:27

As China celebrates an Olympics winning streak that boasts the most Olympic gold medals ever, Silk Street, a famous bazaar once known for fakes, is seeing a boom of its own.

With less than one week left in the Games, athletes, officials and spectators are pouring into the five-floor mall in the east of Beijing.

"The last few days have seen the most customers in over three decades, and sales are growing by 10 percent each day," said Wang Zili, general manager of the Silkstreet Co Ltd.

From August 8-14, more than 300,000 people visited the market, yielding sales of more than 100 million yuan ($14.61 million), according to Wang, who added that 80 percent of the customers were from overseas, including government or state heads from 19 countries.

Anne Rogge, wife of Jacques, president of the International Olympic Committee, visited four times to buy jewelry and silk, Wang said.

Ji Mingren, owner of a silk shop in the mall, said NBA Houston Rockets player Dikembe Mutombo alone bought 11 tailored silk suits from him.

"I gotta say, he is really tall," said Ji. "He seemed very satisfied with the suits, and said 'thank you' to me, in Chinese."

Ji said Mutombo promised last week to order more suits by mail when he goes back to the United States.

Ji received orders for 49 suits from the International Boxing Association for the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and the teams of Canada and Spain ordered tailored sportswear.

"This means that the quality of our garments has begun to win international recognition," said Wang. On his office desk were framed pictures of the Nauru and Venezuela teams marching into the National Stadium during the August 8 opening ceremony in uniforms bearing the newly-established brand of SILKSTREET.

"The Olympics brought us a rare opportunity and will push the market  to work to improve its image," said Wang.

The Silk Street market has become popular with overseas tourists, who have flocked there to buy counterfeit and knock-off luxury clothes and accessories since 1985.

Facing complaints and lawsuits by world-famous brands, the local government cracked down on fake goods and helped the market to establish its own brand in an effort to rehabilitate the mall's reputation.

Hundreds of stalls selling fakes were cleared out of the market, and a tailored suit area of 1,000 square meters was established.

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