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Guo Jingjing trapped in media
(CRI/China Pictorial)
Updated: 2005-01-18 11:18

A champion many times over, Guo Jingjing has be come the "World's Number One Princess in Diving." Presently, Guo has set her sights on the 2008 Olympics.

Guo Jingjing is seen in this undated promotion photo for a brand name cosmetic products. [sohu] 
However, rumors have circulated that Guo's name was not included on the concentration-training list of the China National Diving Team for the 2008 Olympics, as, instead, her beautiful close-up photos have popped up over the cosmetics counters in Chinese shopping malls.

As people marvel at Guo's remarkable change from gold medallist to sexy star, they also learn various tidbits about her through the sports and entertainment pages of newspapers.

They have begun to worry about Guo, wondering if her sports career will soon come to an end and whether she will be able to cope with financial temptations.

In the Entertainment Hurricane

Certainly, Guo possesses all the prerequisite commercial elements of a star: Olympic-championship crowns, charming appearance, intelligence, and, of course, news value.

After the September celebrations for Chinese gold medallists in the Athens Olympics, Guo's name went far from newspapers' sports pages and frequently appeared in the top headlines of entertainment pages.

A beach photo shows Guo's naive smile. [cri]
Guo began to show up on various commercial occasions, making herself one of the most sought-after targets of the paparazzi. To respond the public's veiled words on her commercial activities, Guo said she had been on vacation.

According to Li Hua, director of the China National Swimming Administrative Center, the diving team has called Guo back and agreed on specific restrictions and management for her commercial activities, which exclude the commercial advertisements contracted by the center itself. Li has admitted Guo's "over-participation in commercial activities" in the past.

To explain why Guo was not included on the concentration-training list, Li said that was because "she asked the team for a period of relaxation."

"Guo is still a member of the national team for sure," he said.

The Market Vacuum

As Chinese athletes swept an unprecedented 32 gold medals at the Olympic Games, China's sports became closer than ever to entertainment.

Guo Jingjing performs her flawless diving at the Athens Olympics. [sohu]
But Chinese athletes are different from foreign stars like David Beckham and Anna Kournikova. Guo Jingjing, Tian Liang, and Liu Xiang are not purely athletic stars; the Chinese state bears all the responsibilities and expenses for training them.

"The copyright of Chinese athletes belongs to the state instead of the athletes themselves," said Xiao Shuhong, associate professor of the Administrative College of the Beijing University of Physical Education. "As a matter of fact, the state has acted as the promoter of the athletes in commercial activities."

Guo Jingjing is merely an individual case among many Chinese Olympic champions who have recently become popular stars. After his Athens success in the 110-meter hurdles, Liu Xiang participated in a series of commercial events: off-line ceremonies for automobiles, promotions for mobile phones, and advertising for designer fashions. Sun Tiantian and Li Ting, women's tennis gold medallists in Athens, have signed contracts to be spokeswomen for many brands.

Excellent athletes have won favor in commercial markets, but it seems that their "parent," China's State General Administration of Sports, has not yet been well-prepared. Different administrative centers have worked out contingency management measures for the commercial activities of Olympic champions. The volleyball administrative center, for example, stipulates that any advertising shooting should not collide with training time and an athlete is only allowed one trademark.

For the administration of the athletes' commercial activities, the State General Administration of Sports promulgated three documents in 1996, 1998, and 2001. The 2001 regulations clearly state that all the administrative centers should examine and oversee the form and content of advertisements by athletes. The athletes are not allowed to participate in commercial advertising activities without approval, and half of the advertising revenue goes to the athletes themselves. The rest is allocated to coaches, sports associations, and the training units of the athletes. The 2001 regulations have never been changed.

In recent years, however, in the process of sports industrialization, the market operation of sports stars has developed rapidly. Last year, basketball idol Yao Ming protested Coca-Cola for image right infringement. According to a regulation in Document 505 issued in 1996: "The intangible assets of in-service athletes belongs to the state." This case undoubtedly raised a warning to the policies concerned, which were not adjusted in a timely way and resulted in the administrative centers' passive responses to the athlete's star fever.

Athletes do have potential market value, and the important thing is realizing their value to satisfy both the market and individual demands while tallying with the national interest. Which will athletes in the future depend on more, the market or the state?

Guo Jingjing's sports career:

1988: Diver, Baoding Training Base, Hebei Province
1993: Hebei Provincial Diving Team
1992: National Diving Team
2000: Sydney Olympic Games - 2nd 3m springboard/synchronized springboard
2001: The Ninth World Swimming Championships - 1st 3m springboard/synchronized springboard
2002: The 13th World Cup - 1st 1m/3m springboard; 2nd 3m synchronized springboard
2003: FINA Diving Grand Prix (Australia) - 1st springboard/synchronized springboard
2003: World Championships - 1st 3m springboard/synchronized springboard
2004: The 14th World Cup - 1st 3m synchronized springboard; 2nd 3m springboard
2004: Athens Olympic Games - 1st 3m springboard & synchronized springboard

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