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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 23:48 GMT
Beijing unveils Olympic mascots
Mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics
The choice has been the subject of intense media debate for months
Beijing has unveiled its five official mascots for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The mascots are cartoon renditions of a panda, a carp, a Tibetan antelope, a swallow and the Olympic flame.

They were introduced at a star-studded TV gala in the Chinese capital by top leaders of the communist party to mark the 1,000-day countdown to the Games.

The winning choice - which has been kept a closely-guarded secret - opens a marketing blitz expected to reap record profits in the history of the Olympics.

The mascots were presented as Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni - which, put together reads in Chinese "Beijing welcomes you!"

1988 Seoul - tigers Hodori (male) and Hosuni
2000 Sydney - kookaburra Ollie, platypus Syd, echidna Millie
2002 Salt Lake City - hare Powder, coyote Copper, bear Coal

"They reflect the cultural diversity of China as a multiethnic country," said Liu Qi, President of Beijing Organising Committee.

"They represent the enthusiasm and aspirations of our people, Liu Qi added.

Coloured in the five hues of the Olympic rings, the mascots also represent the sea, forests, fire, earth and air.

The quintet is the largest number of mascots since the practice began more than 30 years ago.

The Beijing Olympics is scheduled to start on 8 August, 2008.

China plans to spend almost $39bn (21bn) on its infrastructure in preparation for the Games, the Xinhua state news agency has said.

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