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Former Olympic Champion Wishes Beijing Olympics Success

"I believe the Beijing Olympic Games will be a success," said former Olympic champion Li Donghua, a China-born Swiss.

"Although I'm now living in Switzerland, I will never forget I'm a descendant of China, and I will never forget my hometown," the 1996 Atlanta Olympics side horse champion told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Li said he witnessed the whole process of Beijing's bid for the 29th Summer Olympics, and now he felt proud that he would go back to Beijing as a special envoy for the Swiss delegation.

Li, a former Chinese gymnastics player, moved to Switzerland in 1988. And in 1996, at the age of 28, he won the Olympic side horse title as a Swiss.

Being a legendary player in Olympic history, Li said he had dreamed of the side horse title since 1984, when China first participated in the Olympic Games.

At that time he was only a young player in the Chinese national team, and one of his teammates was the famous Li Ning, dubbed Gymnastics King.

"When I saw Li Ning won three gold medals in the 1984 Games, I dreamed that someday I could do the same," he said.

But due to injuries and bad luck, that goal was only realized 12 years later, when he competed as a Swiss player in the Atlanta Games. That side horse title culminated his gymnastics career.

Li said he had fully supported Beijing's bid for the Olympic Games through contacts with officials of the International Olympic Committee, which is based in Switzerland's Lausanne. His special status as Olympic champion and a Chinese-Swiss helped a lot.

At the beginning of 2008, Li was named as a special envoy for the Swiss Olympic delegation.

"That's mainly because of my contribution to Swiss sports and my advantage in understanding the Chinese language and culture," he said, adding this is a great honor and a kind recognition for him.

Li said over the past few years he had followed closely Beijing's preparations for the Games and briefed the developments to the Swiss Sports Federation.

He also made explanations to the federation about China's culture and working methods.

"Every time I went back to Beijing, I saw great changes and I saw the Olympic preparation work going on in accordance with the schedule," he said.

He also expressed his firm belief that the forthcoming Games will be a great success, and will present a new China to the world.

2008-08-01 21:26:43     Xinhua

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