July 5, 2006

FIFA to fly kung fu abbot to final

BEIJING (Reuters) - The abbot of China's ancient Shaolin
Temple will fly to Germany to watch the World Cup final at the
invitation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, state media reported
on Wednesday.

The FIFA invitation came thanks to the growing influence of
the Shaolin Temple and Shaolin kung fu, Xinhua news agency
quoted abbot Shi Yongxin as saying.

The temple opened a Shaolin "cultural center" in Germany in
2001, Xinhua said.

The 1,500 year-old Buddhist temple in China's central
province of Henan is famous as the birthplace of Shaolin kung
fu but is best known in the West as the training ground of
David Carradine's main character, Kwai Chang Caine, in the
1970s "Kung Fu" television series.

Much of the temple's high profile can be attributed to
Abbot Shi, who has applied to protect the Shaolin brand with
international trademarks and upgraded the image and the
facilities of the temple.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the temple in

Shi's enthusiasm for commercialism has even spawned plans
for a reality TV show aimed at unearthing the next generation
of kung fu stars.

The World Cup final is in Berlin on Sunday, when Italy will
take on the winner of Wednesday's second semi-final between
Portugal and France.