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Olympics a Win for Sporting Brands Sold in China

TAIPEI ( TheStreet) -- Whether or not China finishes No. 1 in the Olympics this summer, the country's obviously strong showing will fan enthusiasm for sports back on the home court.

There's no contest.

China's government already encourages participant sports as an enduring piece of its diplomacy that calls on citizens to understand the world as is and then conquer a piece of it. Children eagerly attach to soccer as taught in school or to basketball as seen on television.

Their elders play ping pong or badminton in public parks, with grimaces revealing a passion to win, not just have fun. The government grooms its top athletes at specialized universities to play in international events.

It's impossible then for the London Olympics, ballyhooed in the Chinese media whenever a local wins, not to motivate more public interest in traditional sports. The burst in excitement in turn should raise the incomes of multinational sporting retailers.

The other heavyweight in the equation is China's massive population and a general rise in consumption.

The trend of events driving enthusiasm is clear from the past decade.

In 2002, basketball enthusiasm perked up in China when its own Yao Ming signed with the NBA's Houston Rockets. Now 300 million people, about the size of the U.S. population, can watch NBA games.

A month after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which is the only Chinese city to host the Games, the official China.org news Web site reported that "enthusiasm for physical exercise has sent people rushing to parks and training fields." Ping pong perked up particularly that year because of the Chinese table tennis team's performance, it said.

In 2010, even though China's soccer team had missed the World Cup, its victory in the four-nation East Asia Football Championship finals in February that year "raised enthusiasm" for soccer in China, the Beijing Today newspaper reported.

China this year has picked up gold medals in sports such as diving and swimming. Ditto for badminton and table tennis, which are no surprise: Badminton kept much of China going through the 2003 SARS outbreak, as it could be played on sidewalks clear of any contagious crowds and was seen as a way to boost immunity. Office workers are so keen on table tennis that they often set up tables in halls and lobbies.

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