Lucky and Yo-Yo -- the once unthinkable hot tickets

Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:10pm EDT
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By Alastair Himmer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Gum-chewing cheerleaders baring pierced belly buttons, blaring rap music and giant inflatable mascots -- the once unthinkable in China now makes basketball an Olympic hot ticket.

Dancing girls with names like "Lucky" and "Yo-Yo" also shake their thing during breaks in the action, but what do older spectators make of all the naked flesh and near-deafening music?

"They brighten things up," Niu Peigen, a 69-year-old retired local government official from the northeastern city of Dalian, said as a tune from American rapper Kanye West boomed out.

"They create a good atmosphere. It's only in the last few years we've seen things like this," said Niu.

No one in the 18,000-strong, popcorn-munching crowd, even those who thought the costumes were a little skimpy, seemed to disapprove of this NBA-style razzmatazz in today's China.

"Some of them are wearing a bit too little maybe, but I can accept it," said 53-year-old Beijing accountant Li Shuqin.

"I think we're quite open now. This sort of thing is normal now on TV," said Li.

The dancers pointed out they were not around when Chinese authorities would have frowned on them waving pom-poms with little to cover their modesty.   Continued...

<p>A spectator uses binoculars to watch the Group B men's basketball match between Germany and Angola at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Perez</p>