Olympic Ambush Heats Up Li Ning-Adidas Rivalry

The athlete and entrepreneur was the Games' final torchbearer, giving his lagging company priceless visibility and a boost that the official sportswear sponsor might covet
Li Ning, former Olympic gymnast for China flies through the air on his way to lighting the Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing, China. Phil Walter/Getty Images

The slogan for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is "One World One Dream," but as I sat in Ditan Park last Friday evening with hundreds of other Chinese and foreigners watching the opening ceremony (BusinessWeek.com, 8/8/08) on two big TV screens, I couldn't help wonder what Olympic sponsor Adidas (ADDDY) was thinking as former six-time Olympic medalist Li Ning, who began a rival athletic apparel company under his own brand, lit the Olympic flame while suspended by wires 75 feet in the air.

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