GUANGZHOU, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The state-owned provincial TV station of south China's Guangdong Province provoked cheers and outrage on Saturday when it chose to hire bikini models to deliver weather forecasts as part of its coverage of the final tournament of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship over the weekend.
Photos and videos depicting the women spread quickly on microblog sites after the Guangdong TV sports channel brought the models out to deliver weather reports for Ukraine and Poland, where the UEFA tournament is being held.
CCTV, the national TV station, elected to hire renowned pianist Li Yundi to perform a piece by Chopin as part of its own coverage of the match early Saturday morning. However, online discussion of Li's performance was vastly overshadowed by that of Guangdong TV's bikini models.
The women were the topic of more than 100,000 posts on Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging site, as of Tuesday afternoon. Some of the comments were positive, such as that of Liu Lai, a manager for computer manufacturer Lenovo.
"A brave breathrough. Bravo for Guangdong TV," Liu wrote.
Other users, however, were incensed.
"I did not see any beauty in them. If female anchors all dress like this, I would rather turn off the TV," wrote netizen "Listening to nature."
An opinion piece published in the Tuesday edition of the People's Daily said "inviting bikini girls to deliver weather reports is simply an unwise stunt."
An opinion poll on the newspaper's website, people.com, showed that 58.5 percent of 3,645 respondents believe hiring the models was a "vulgar" decision and demonstrates a lack of social responsibility.
Another 37.4 percent, however, said there is no need to be offended by the incident.
Another opinion piece in Southern Metropolis Daily compared the models to the "basketball babes" commonly seen dancing in bikinis at halftime during the China Basketball Association's games.
Guangdong TV chose to ask the models to wear t-shirts for their Sunday night coverage of the game.
"We accepted suggestions from some netizens and made the change," an anonymous employee of the station said.
"In my personal opinion," he said, "Some netizens are making a fuss. Sports and entertainment cannot be separated these days. There are much hotter girls on the sports pages of leading Internet portals."
The employee said most of the girls chosen were in their early 20s, with a healthy and fresh image.
"Bikinis are necessary clothing for beach volleyball players worldwide," he added.
Women wearing bikinis first appeared on Chinese TV in the late 1980s, when beauty pageants made their debut in the country. They are a fairly common sight now, with bikini models hired to promote everything from auto shows to real estate companies.
"Sports channels have large numbers of teenage viewers and have a somewhat public nature. Bikini girls are not suitable," said Xu Fan, a lecturer from the TV department of the Communication University of China.