sharing the Olympic spirit
OLYMPICS/ self introduction

Making friends and influencing people
By Si Tingting (China Daily/Olympian)
Updated: 2007-11-01 23:22


Philippe Le Gall thought he was on to a good thing being born on the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month, an auspicious date that coincides with the start of next year's Beijing Games.

In Chinese, the character for eight ("ba") is considered lucky because it sounds like the word for prosperity ("fa").

But when the Seychelles' Ambassador in Beijing tried to appeal to China's penchant for lucky numbers to attract enough votes to be crowned one of Lenovo's eight expat Olympic Torchbearers earlier this month, things did not go according to plan and his luck ran out.

Of the 262 expats who threw their hats in the ring, 42 gained 1,000 or more votes. Most of these demonstrated a genuine affection for China and the Chinese people, and many used their personal blogs, social networks or the media to harvest votes.

For the first few days of the month-long campaign, Robert Saunders' thought he was in with a chance when his fans put him top of the overall vote count.

The American, who hosts Action English, a language program on China's most influential television station CCTV, temporarily led the way after asking for support on his personal blog.

But as the campaign progressed, his fortunes also dipped as people with more heart-warming stories — and especially those who appealed to their countrymen's sense of national pride -- rose to the top.

Meena Barot, a 35-year-old Indian woman, asked two English-language newspapers in India, Mid-Day and Daily News & Analysis (DNA), for a helping hand to mobilize her countrymen to vote for her. One story published by DNA encouraged Indians all over the world to vote for her, as they had done for the Taj Mahal during the New 7 Wonders of the World selection campaign.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Colombian Luis Hong-Sanchez got his story published in a Chinese newspaper based in Zhuhai, the city in South China's Guangdong Province that he calls home.

Filipino Marcos Torres even went back to Manila for radio and television interviews and uploaded them on the website YouTube to gain an upper hand.

Others came close by resorting to social-networking sites like Facebook and popular Internet sites to solicit votes.

Among them was Dan Brody, who works for an American Internet company. He posted his "China and I" story in Mandarin on the country's popular online forum, Tianya.

American businessman John Holden wrote a long story in Mandarin chronicling China's changes during his 20-year stay in the country and put it on his blog. This was later recommended to the welcome page of, one of China's biggest Internet portals, but even this was not enough to secure a winning vote.

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