British, Chinese Olympic gold medalists launch 2008 "China in London"

2008-02-06 18:04:02 Xinhua English

LONDON, Feb.6 (Xinhua) -- British and Chinese Olympic athletes launched the 2008 "China in London" season on Wednesday here in central London when they switched on the Chinese lanterns above Oxford Circus while a stunt rider took to a 14-foot ramp and performed extreme bicycle and motorcross (BMX) stunts.

The BMX spectacle is being hosted by British 400m Olympic medalist and former BMX bike rider Iwan Thomas, former English triple jumper, Olympic, European and World champion Jonathan Edwards, and Chinese gold medalist Tian Liang, known as the "Prince of Diving" in China for his achievements at the Sydney andAthens Olympics. The performance celebrates the new Olympic sport of BMX riding, which will appear for the first time as part of the2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The "China in London" season, now in its third year organized in conjunction with the Mayor of London, includes the biggest celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year outside Asia. This year will see some of London's prestigious cultural institutions such as V&A, British Museum, Royal Academy of Music, Kew Gardens and the London Zoo, put on over 500 events over the coming two months.

The season will celebrate China's vibrant and historic cultural life with Chinese music, dance, film, theater, as well as interactive workshops and innovative exhibitions. Over 300,000 people are expected to participate in the events, which range from free Chinese Opera Workshops for children, Chinese tea tasting and modern opera performances, to the Chinese Elderly Art Group performing traditional Chinese cultural and martial arts.

The unique relationship between London and Beijing as Olympic hosts and hand-over cities is a theme that will run throughout the2008 China in London season, which will come to a spectacular close with the Olympic Torch Relay on April 6. Large crowds will line the streets of London as 80 torchbearers carry the Olympic flame across the capital, as part of its journey around the world on its way to the start of the Beijing Games.

"Interest in Chinese history, culture and contemporary life is increasing among Londoners and across the UK, which will continue to grow as we approach the Beijing Games in August," said Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, adding the season has an outstanding range of cultural events and attractions offering an insight into China's culture, history and modern life.

The Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations marking the Year of the Rat will take place in central London on February 10, with firecrackers, food, lion and dragon dancers bringing the feel of Chinese popular culture to the streets of the British capital for a day. Some 500,000 people are expected to turn out for the parade through Chinatown and Trafalgar Square.

Other "China in London" highlights include the Beijing Dance Drama and Opera House and the Beijing Modern Dance Company performances in iconic London locations as well as Beijing Spotlight: China in London Film Week. In addition, Beijing will transport to City Hall with two prominent Chinese photo exhibitions--Women in 21st Century China and Beijing The Magnificent City along with dancing and singing performances from the Beijing Modern Dance Company and Beijing tenor Xue Haoyin.

Beijing Spotlight is presented by Film London in partnership with the China State Film Bureau and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). The program will include new award winning features and documentaries, a retrospective of one of the most prominent filmmakers of China's fifth generation, film director Tian Zhuangzhuang, and Vision Beijing a program of five shorts directed by renowned international directors about people and life before the 2008 Olympics.

The season aims not only to offer Londoners the opportunity to discover more about the breadth of Chinese culture and traditions, but also to underpin the economic ties between China and London, building the capital city's profile to Chinese businesses, students and visitors.

Chinese inward investment is making an increasingly large contribution to London's economy, helping to strengthen London's position as the world's most globalized city. Since last year's China in London season, twelve Chinese business projects have been invested in London as part of the overall effort to increase the economic exchanges between China and the capital driven by the Mayor's offices in Shanghai and the Think London agency. What's more, there were 65,000 visitors from China to London in 2006, spending 49 million pounds (about 89 million U.S. dollars) in total with an average daily spend of 100 pounds (200 dollars).