Yao holding court as Beijing bids for Winter Olympics

Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:38am EDT
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By Julian Linden

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Standing 2.29 meters (7ft 6in) tall, Yao Ming has never been able to hide in the background. And now, as one of the front men of Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the former NBA star is again the center of attention.

With the International Olympic Committee to vote in Kuala Lumpur on Friday whether to award the games to Beijing or Almaty, Yao has become the public face of China's campaign and in high demand in the Malaysian capital.

When Yao was in the NBA, he was banned from ever skiing or skating in fear that he might slip over and injure himself but said he had no hesitation in volunteering to join Beijing's bid team.

"Winter sports is about to take off in China and we have great potential," he told Reuters in an interview.

"I could show you a bunch of numbers, how many people and how big it will be...but the most important thing is that people have the desire and passion."

As a pioneer who helped popularize basketball in the world's most populated country, Yao has first-hand experience of the power of sport.

He competed at three Olympics and carried his country's flag at the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and said he saw the benefits to his country.

"It really impacted an entire generation, an entire country of people in how to embrace sports and sports activity," he said.   Continued...

Retired Chinese and NBA basketball star Yao Ming encourages his NBA All-star team during a charity basketball match against the Chinese national team in Beijing July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon