Chinese Olympians leave for Athens
A 267-member first main group of China's 637-strong Olympic delegates left Beijing for the Athens Games on Sunday.
The group of 240 athletes, coaches and 27 officials left the Beijing International Airport aboard a chartered Air China flight.
Leading the group is Yuan Weimin, minister of the State General Administration of Sport, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) and chef-de-mission of the Chinese Olympic delegation.
Among the athletes are 33 shooters, eight archers, 20 table tennis players, 20 divers, 52 swimmers, 13 weightlifters, 27 fencers, 20 women's softball players, 20 women's handball players as well as athletes for field hockey, boxing, judo, wrestling, cycling, tennis and beach volleyball.
Other Chinese Olympian athletes are to depart here separately later, according to their competition schedules.
Teams of women's soccer, gymnastics, rowing and women's field hockey had earlier arrived in Athens, ahead of the main patch of the delegates.
At a ceremony here on Sunday to see the delegation off, Li Zhijian, a ranking official of the State General Administration of Sport, asked the athletes to unite as one and give their best shot for good results in Athens. He also urged them to respect referees and opponents in a fair-play manner.
Chinese State Councilor Chen Zhili saw the delegates off at the airport.
China aims to be among the leaders in the second "group" at the Athens Games final medal standings, as the Untied States and Russia are considered in the first. China finished third in the standings in Sydney, which is China's best ever overall Olympic performance.
China has announced cash awards for Olympic medal winners in Athens. Cash bonus of 200,000 yuan RMB (US$24,000) is promised for gold medalist, 120,000 yuan (US$14,500) to silver medalist and 80,000 yuan (US$9,600) to bronze medalist. Coaches for the Olympic medal winners will also be awarded.
The Chinese Olympic delegation consists of 407 athletes for 26 out of the 28 sports listed on the Athens Games program. Among the Chinese Olympians, 84 have competed in three previous Games while 323 are to make their Olympic Games debut in Athens.