Sweden signs up Chinese sportswear firm for 2008 Olympics

China's top sportswear firm, Li Ning, will outfit Swedish athletes competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics under a landmark deal signed in Beijing on Wednesday.

Third behind Nike and Adidas in the Chinese market, Beijing-based Li Ning is relatively unknown outside the country.

But the head of the Swedish Olympic Committee, Stefan Lindberg, told a press conference here that Sweden had tied up with the firm set up by former Olympic champion Li Ning because it had earned a reputation for quality and trust.

Li Ning last year signed up the Spanish men’s and women’s basketball teams for the 2008 Games, while it has also clinched deals to outfit China’s Olympic table tennis, gymnastics, diving and shooting teams in Beijing.

However, the new deal makes Sweden the first foreign Olympic delegation outfitted by a Chinese firm for the Olympics.

Li Ning chief executive Zhang Zhiyong said the deal would benefit the company’s international marketing drive.

“We have gone global,” said Zhang. “Li Ning has entered a new phase as we strive to be world number one.”

No financial details of the partnership were disclosed, but Swedish sources said the terms were more favourable than its Athens Olympic deal with domestic outfitter Stadium.

Under the deal, Li Ning will supply clothes and footwear for training and medal ceremonies, but not for competition during the 2008 Games. The apparel will demonstrate “our international standards and professional capability,” said Zhang.