The Beijing Organizing Committee's choosing of former Olympic gymnast Li Ning to be the final torchbearer and the cauldron lighter must have rubbed the folks at adidas and Nike the wrong way.
The group did what it could to protect an official partner like adidas from ambush by trying to rid non-partners from the airwaves here, but in the end, BOCOG provided the greatest ambush of them all -- giving what will be part of China's legacy to these games to the namesake of the shoe and apparel company that competes directly with adidas and Nike , which is sponsoring some 20 Chinese federations.
Think Friday's torch lighting didn't have an impact on the company? Think again. Although he didn't even tell his wife about what he was about to do, speculation that Li Ning might be the final torchbearer drove up shares of Li Ning, traded in Hong Kong, by 3.7 percent on Friday. The stock extended gains today, surging as much as 5.9 percent in the morning session.
Most torchbearers wore adidas shoes as part of their deal, but one insider here in Beijing told CNBC that anyone who had a legitimate objection to wearing the adidas brand because of another a competing sponsor situation had the right to run with the torch in non-branded shoes and apparel.
Although Li Ning's rise to the top of the stadium made it hard to see, photos confirm that Li Ning wore unbranded red and white shoes and unbranded white wristbands. In terms of market share here in China, Li Ning is third behind Nike and adidas. I walked into the big Li Ning shop at Wangfujing -- where there is the big Niketown Beijing -- and there's really not that much to buy for the high end consumer. Wanting to have something Li Ning I bought a warmup that was meant to look like the outfit Li Ning wore in 1992 at the Barcelona games.
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