By Sportswriter Zhang Yongfeng
BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- A top sports official said on Tuesday that China's flag-bearer in the Olympic opening ceremony will be "tall, handsome and famous."
"You will get a pleasant surprise when the name of the flag-bearer is announced soon," Xiao Tian, deputy chef de mission of the Chinese Olympic delegation, said at Beijing International Airport while leading a team of Chinese officials to leave for London.
China's flag-bearers at the previous Summer Olympics were men's basketball players with NBA star Yao Ming leading China's parade in the Beijing Olympic Games.
There has been a lot of guessing about who will carry the Chinese flag in London. Dallas Mavericks player Yi Jianlian, 2011 French Open women's singles winner Li Na, 2004 Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang, Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan and world champion swimmer Sun Yang are among the candidates for the flag-bearer.
"The flag-bearer should well represent the image of China," said Xiao. "He or she needs to have an impressive record in sports, be tall, handsome and influential."
Xiao's remarks virtually ruled out Li Na and Lin Dan, who stand 1.72m and 1.78m respectively.
Liu Xiang, who pulled out of the Beijing Olympics with a foot injury and recently withdrew from a Diamond League meet in London with a back strain, would be advised not to attend the energy-sapping parade on the July 27 ceremony, a source with the Chinese delegation said.
Xiao expected a "mature performance" from Liu.
"As an Olympic veteran, Liu Xiang has got maturer and he is supposed to have a good run in London," he said.
Liu was forced to leave Britain and train in Germany this month after a spell of cold, wet weather.
Most of Chinese Olympians have been training in Britain or other parts of Europe. The "dream team" of Chinese table tennis players arrived in London on Sunday after a week of training in Leeds.
Xiao expected Chinese athletes to continue to do well in table tennis, badminton, weightlifting, diving, gymnastics and shooting.
"These are the sports China is traditionally good at," he said. "We have put in a lot of investments and of course we are expecting paybacks."