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    For China’s Factories, the Paris Olympics Have Already Started

    Chinese merchants are reporting a surge in exports of sports equipment to France as the 2024 Summer Games approach.
    Apr 09, 2024#sports#business

    The opening ceremony of Paris 2024 isn’t due to take place for another three months. But in China’s manufacturing hubs, “Olympic fever” has already struck.

    Merchants in Yiwu — a city in eastern China famous for its massive wholesale goods markets — are reporting a surge in orders from France, with local factories rushing to churn out everything from tricolored inflatable thunder sticks to novelty Eiffel Tower ornaments.

    According to domestic media reports, vendors in Yiwu have seen a “significant increase” in demand ahead of the Olympics. Many factories in the region will need to maintain full production through May or even June to fulfill the orders.

    Yiwu’s exports of sports equipment surged to 1.7 billion yuan ($235 million) during the first two months of 2024, a 70.5% increase compared with the same period last year, according to local customs data. Exports to France were up 42.1% year over year.

    Data from e-commerce giant Alibaba also showed a jump in exports of sports equipment to France in March, with popular items including tennis attire, custom sportswear, training helmets, and golf bags.

    The fact that Paris Olympic merchandise is overwhelmingly being made in China hasn’t gone unnoticed in France. In late 2022, the Paris Olympic Committee revealed that only 8% of the official Olympic mascot toys would be manufactured domestically, sparking domestic backlash. A government spokesperson explained that most of the production had to be outsourced to China due to a “structural problem” with France’s manufacturing sector, which isn’t capable of making 2 million stuffed toys at short notice.

    In Yiwu, the Olympic rush has provided a welcome shot in the arm for local businesses. Ye Demo, an exporter of trophies and medals, told local media that the Olympics had provided a boost in contracts, with factory orders expected to peak in May and June.

    Another trader, Zhou Jian, said that she was able to make far better profits on Olympic-branded merchandise. For example, table tennis balls typically sell on the wholesale market for just 0.6 yuan per piece, but balls for Paris 2024 are selling for over 6 yuan per piece, she said.

    Merchants in Yiwu added that the Olympics provides opportunities beyond simply supplying sports merchandise. With the Games expected to stimulate the European tourism industry, local businesses are working to expand their customer bases. In their experience, once a new client places an order, there is a high chance they will place more orders further down the line.

    (Header image: Overseas buyers purchase sports products in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, 2024. VCG)