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Ping pong diplomacy sees Brown invited to Olympics.

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown yesterday won an on-the-spot invitation to the Beijing Olympics from Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.

But he ducked out of a table tennis challenge from prime minister Wen as ping pong diplomacy returned briefly to the international stage.

The invitation to the games in August came as Mr Brown and his wife Sarah visited the People's University on the outskirts of Beijing on the first day of his official visit to China.

Mr Brown and Mr Wen joined a question and answer session with students and watched matches between British table tennis hopefuls and their Chinese counterparts.

During the session, Mr Brown was asked if he would attend the Beijing games.

Mr Brown replied: "I will most certainly come to the Olympic Games if I'm invited and the reason I want to come is to learn from what I know will be the great success of China so we can follow you in London in 2012."

"I believe for young people in particular the contact that will happen will build cultural bridges that will stand us in good stead for the years to come."

Premier Wen replied swiftly: "Actually, I do want to play a table tennis match with you.

Here on behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to extend the invitation again to Prime Minister Brown and Mrs Brown both to come to China for the Olympic Games."

Earlier Mr Brown praised Beijing for hosting the games, saying: "I know that the preparations have been wonderful and successful and I know that China will win many medals and I hope there will be some medals left so that Britain will win a few."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 19, 2008
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