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Olympic Games : D - 2 - Rich and popular stars head to Beijing - 8/6/2008
Some of the biggest and richest names in world sport will be at the Beijing Olympics, with the superstar mega-list headed by Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Lionel Messi, Yao Ming, LeBron James, and Michael Phelps.
Some will be mucking in with their teammates at the Olympic Village although others are expected to stay in hotel suites more becoming of their status and financial clout.
While the Olympics will attract more than 10,000 athletes, only a handful can claim to be truely global household names, and even fewer can boost of multi-million dollar bank accounts to boot.
Perhaps the most recognisable face is Federer, the Swiss tennis machine who has dominated the sport for five years, although in China, home to 1.3 billion people, Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming and 110m hurdler Liu Xiang are bigger.
When it comes to money, the American basketball team carries perhaps the most clout.
Players like James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade are heavyweights of the game who have multi-million dollar salaries and all will be in Beijing.
Federer has reigned as the number one tennis player since 2004 - although his position is now under threat from Rafael Nadal - which makes him not only seriously rich, but a top draw in August.
But he has indicated he will be one of those forgoing the Olympic village.
Maria Sharapova will also be in town, and is certain to be one of the most photographed competitors.
Barcelona's star striker Lionel Messi, considered by many to be the best young player in the world, hopes to be in Beijing, although his club Barcelona are dead set against it.
Yao, another from the mega-rich basketball fraternity, is huge in China and is sure to be a major focus of attention.
Phelps isn't on the same pay scale although he will reportedly receive one million dollars from Speedo if he matches Mark Spitz' record of seven swimming golds this summer.
Regardless of his earnings power, Phelps could become the star of the show, with few other athletes in a position to win so many medals.
Another major attraction will be Athens gold medallist Liu Xiang, whose rock-star following in China and sponsorships by Nike, Coca-Cola, Visa and a host of Chinese brands have made him not only rich but very popular.
The world's fastest sprinters, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, will also be top draws, with their 100m showdown set to be one of the great moments of the Games.



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