Olympics inspire Chinese parents in search of a name

What's in a name? With the Olympics penetrating the Chinese national psyche ever deeper, "Aoyun", or "Olympic Games", has become a popular name for babies, threatening traditional favourites such as "Defend China" or "Celebrate the Nation".

According to a report in the Beijing Youth Daily, more than 4,000 Chinese children have been named "Aoyun" with an eye to the Beijing Games in August. The police-run centre for information on identity said 92 per cent of the 4,104 Chinese registered under the given name of "Aoyun" were boys and only a handful were living in Beijing.

Most of the children were born around the year 2000 when China was bidding for the Games, but the trend began as far back as 1992, and hundreds more children were given the name in 2001 when Beijing won the right to stage the Games.

Thousands of others have been named after the Beijing Games' mascots, five imaginary childen known as the Five Friendlies: Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni. Putting the names together, "Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni" means "Beijing welcomes you".

It is common in China to name children after major events in history, and it is not unusual to meet adults called "Liberation", "Civilisation" or "Space Travel".

The trend for unusual names is growing. Establishing your individuality can be difficult in a country of 1.3 billion, especially one in which nearly 90 per cent of the population shares the same 129 family names.