The disturbing marks on the back of an Olympic swimmer waiting to begin her training session in Beijing yesterday are from an ancient Chinese massage method using suction cups.
The technique, which has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, involves creating a vacuum inside a glass cup, which is then placed on the skin. It is used to drain excess fluids and toxins, stimulate the nervous system and increase blood flow to muscles. The reddened areas show where circulation has been brought to the surface.
The treatment is said to be so relaxing that patients fall asleep. The drawback, though, is plain to see.