Sports/Olympics / 2008 Beijing Olympics

Beijing counting on lucky number eight
Updated: 2006-05-31 14:49

That Beijing organisers have chosen to mark 800 days to the start of the 2008 Olympics on May 30 will come no surprise to those familiar with the power of numbers in China.

Auspicious numbers have long played a part in Chinese culture -- witness the 9,999 rooms of Beijing's Forbidden City -- and the right digits can still play a role in the choice of a home, telephone number or even a birthday.

Even numbers are luckier than odd. Two suggests harmony, six smooth progress. Four, a homonym for death, is unlucky, while nine, as highest single digit, stands for longevity.

Beijing has chosen to mark 800 days to the start of the 2008 Olympics at 8 p.m.May 30,2006. Eight is a lucky number, normally presenting prosperity,money,and status in Chinese culture. [newsphoto]

Eight, though, is the luckiest of all.

"The pronunciation of the number eight is similar to the character 'faat' in Cantonese, which means prosperity, money and status," Professor Ding Xia of the Chinese Language and Culture Centre at Tsinghua University told Reuters on Tuesday.

"This opinion was mostly held by people in Guangdong province before, but after the reform and opening up about 20 years ago, it is popular all over the country with the movement of population becoming easier and faster."

It is surely no coincidence that the Games of the XXIX Olympiad will open at 8pm local time on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008.

The 1988 Olympics in Seoul were held in late September to avoid the scorching north Asian summer and the Beijing Games were originally going to open in the relative cool of late August.

While the official reason for the switch was so as not to clash with the U.S. Open tennis and American baseball's pennant races, the auspicious numerology of August 8, 2008, will not have been lost on organisers.


Although the current numerological superstitions originated in the south of China, there is plenty evidence of their hold in the north.

In Beijing, a hefty premium is paid for telephone numbers with plenty of eights, while apartments on the eighth floor are much coveted. Fourth floors, in name at least, rarely exist.

Apartment blocks designed to appeal to western buyers and prosperous Chinese often register no floors four, 13 and 14.

Expectant mothers in China are known to pick the dates of Caesareans carefully in order to endow their offspring with the luckiest birth date possible.

Back down south in Hong Kong, businessmen have paid huge sums for personalised car registration and in the 1990s the number '8' licence plate was sold for HK$5 million (US$641,000).

But China is not alone in its superstitions.

To some Europeans, Athens looked to be flirting with fate when the 2004 Olympics was scheduled to open the evening of Friday, August 13.

Every Greeks knows, however, that it is not Friday but Tuesday -- the day Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 -- that is unlucky and the opening ceremony was a glittering success.

When Beijing decided the cost of a roof on their Olympic Stadium was prohibitive, they were relying on good fortune to prevent the August rains ruining their opening party.

"We are considering what to do if it rains," Beijing Games construction office chief Jun Yuan said in March. "But I'm really hoping August 8, 2008, will be a propitious day."