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Biggest-ever team for Games
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07:47, October 18, 2007

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The largest-ever Chinese Olympic contingent of 570 athletes will participate in next year's Beijing Games, sports chief Liu Peng said yesterday.

By September, about 500 athletes had already qualified, said Liu, minister of the State General Administration of Sport.

With some Olympic qualification events yet to be completed, he predicted that another 70 athletes will make the cut.

"This surely will be the largest Chinese team in history, given that the number for the Athens Games was 397," Liu told a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

On athletes' preparation, Liu was cryptic: "We enjoy certain advantages, but also face some challenges."

He believes there is little potential for an increase in gold medals for the Chinese team in their favorite events. Moreover, sports in which the country enjoys an edge have seen the largest changes since the Athens Games, and some of them have even been canceled.

He asked the public to have a reasonable expectation of performances.

In 2004, China ranked second with 63 medals, including 32 gold.

The official also stressed China has enhanced anti-doping efforts.

In 1999, only 165 athletes were tested while the figure reached 9,100 last year with 47 percent conducted without athletes' knowledge.

"The number of athletes tested is among the highest in the world," he said.

According to results released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2006, the positive rate globally averaged 2.13 percent, while it was only 0.4 percent in China.

Liu listed two major tasks in the Beijing Games.

"One is to cooperate with WADA to make sure that the Beijing Games will be clean; and the other is to make sure there are no doping incidents among Chinese athletes."

Source: China Daily

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