July 11 - The English city of Leeds is hoping it can turn hospitality into economic opportunities as it plays host to athletes from the Chinese Olympic team ahead of this summer's games in London. Eileen Hsieh reports from Leeds.
Situated in north England, Leeds is the third largest city in the United Kingdom after London and Birmingham. It is also a regional industrial and commercial center, a shopping mecca nicknamed the "Knightsbridge of the North". And this summer the city is making a splash on the international stage, with a little help from the 2012 London Olympics. In the coming month Leeds will be hosting more than 200 chinese athletes training for events ranging from taekwondo, table tennis to swimming. And although the athletes will not be allowed to roam around the city on their own, their presence is already felt. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 18-YEAR-OLD LEEDS RESIDENT SAYING: "It'd be really cool to see them, I really like their basketball team." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEEDS RESIDENT, SAYING: "It's fantastic for Leeds. There's a lot going on in Leeds but this is really really good, I'll certainly be looking out for them." Leeds' natural beauty helped secured its bid as the official European headquarters for the Chinese Olympic team. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) HEAD OF CHINESE SWIMMING TEAM, YUAN HAORAN, SAYING: "Leeds is a very beautiful city. It's my second time here. The first time was in March we came to check out the facilities after a test event in the UK, and my first impression was wow, what a pretty little city with a beautiful aquatic center." However what the local officials want the Chinese to remember is not just the scenery but the city's trade and investment opportunities. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEEDS CITY COUNCIL PROJECT MANAGER FOR THE OLYMPICS, PETER SMITH, SAYING: "We look to use the time when the Chinese athletes are training in Leeds to help raise our profile both in China but also about encouraging companies in the Yorkshire region to think about doing business with China." (SOUNDBITE) (English) PINSENT MASONS, ALISON STARR, SAYING: "Again it comes down to making people realise that Leeds is actually a stand-alone financial and legal city, international, and we can do the type of work that is carried out in London, and that's real central message from the business perspective." It has recruited dozens of Mandarin-speaking volunteers amongst students and staff to make the Chinese athletes feel at home. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF SPORT AT UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, ROB WADSWORTH, SAYING: "We want to be able to delivery a world-class experience, so they come in and are fully prepared for the Olympics and they can go there and say we had a wonderful time in Leeds." As China aims for the podium in London, Leeds is focusing on a longer term gain to solidify its trade relationship with the world's second largest economy. I'm Reuters reporter Eileen Hsieh, Leeds.