Barcelona to play in Beijing for Olympic warm-up

February 28, 2007

BEIJING, Feb 28 (Reuters) - European champions Barcelona will play a friendly in Beijing in August to help the Chinese capital mark the one-year countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games, a city official said on Wednesday.

Plans for the period around the start of the countdown on Aug. 8 also include the NFL's inaugural China Bowl between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks and the finals of a city-wide table tennis tournament on Tiananmen Square.

Barcelona, also the Spanish champions, will take on Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan on Aug. 3 or 5, Sun Kanglin, director general of the Beijing sports bureau, told a news conference.

'I've just come back from Barcelona where I spoke to the club's officials last week,' Sun added. 'We signed an agreement about this match. This has been confirmed.'

Sun said he had been assured that the club from the city which hosted the 1992 Olympics would be bringing their strongest squad on their first visit to China.

'Barcelona look upon this as very important for their profile in China, they will bring all their top stars including Ronaldinho,' he said.

The fixture has been provisionally scheduled for the 64,000 seat Workers Stadium but alternatives might have to be considered as it is being refurbished to host soccer matches at the 2008 Games.

'We are negotiating with the constructors to make sure the renovations have been completed on time,' Sun said.

The plan to hold the finals of the table tennis tournament for tens of thousands of Beijing residents on Tiananmen Square was subject to approval, Sun said.

'We have submitted our plan to the local committee in charge of the square but it has not been approved yet,' he added.

'If it is confirmed it will be the biggest-ever tournament in Beijing, if not, we will consider other open spaces.'

The use of Tiananmen, the world's largest public square and political heart of Communist China, for a sporting event would be unprecedented.