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Race to have an ‘Olympic baby’

More than 4,000 children in China have been given the name Aoyun, meaning Olympic Games, in the past 15 years.

The rise in popularity of the name is seen as a sign of support for the Games being staged in August in Beijing.

Officials in charge of identity cards say that more than 92% of the 4,104 registered Aoyuns are boys.

It is not uncommon for Chinese children to be given names of common events and popular slogans – such as Defend China, Build the Nation and Space Travel.

There are 290,798 registered Civilisations.

The first surge in Aoyuns came in 1992, when China applied to host to the 2000 Games. About 680 Aoyuns were registered at the time.

In 2002 another 553 Aoyuns were named, after China was chosen to host the 2008 Games.

The BBC’s Chinese service says that in recent weeks babies have also been given names such as Hope for Sichuan, to show solidarity with earthquake victims.

Which baby will be the one whose cry will herald the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Ask their prospective parents — right now.

For many Chinese couples, October is the right season to conceive babies, as they hope to have an “Olympic baby” delivered at 8:08 p.m., on August 8, 2008, the time when the opening ceremony will begin.

“Hosting the Olympic Games is a once in a blue moon chance,” says a father-to-be surnamed Li in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong Province. “If my wife is lucky enough to deliver an ‘Olympic baby,’ the luck means something more than family joy.”

Li and his wife, two civil servants in Guangzhou, didn’t battle the crowds of holidaymakers during the weeklong National Day holiday. Instead, like many other young couples, they chose to stay at home, trying to get their timing right and have a baby born on August 8.

“Even though I was off-duty, the past holiday was never carefree,” complained Tao Lili, a renowned maternity doctor in Guangzhou. She constantly received calls for counseling on in vitro fertilization in this period or on selective births for 2008.

While the ambitious potential parents plan to celebrate the Games with a new addition to their families, host country China is bracing itself for a baby boom. The first generation born under the one-child policy has reached the age of childbearing. And also, a mixture of traditional superstition and new trends has led to an abnormal surge in the population.

The year 2000 saw over 36 million “millennium babies”, nearly doubling the number in 1999 and 2001. Seven years later, the country is witnessing a new rush of baby deliveries since February 18, the beginning of the lunar New Year, the Year of the Pig. Many couples are trying to have “piggy babies” so that they will have a happy and prosperous life in the Year of golden Pig, as the animal sign coincides with gold, one of the five elements on earth.

As a result, the number of newborns is expected to hit 20 million this year, according to Xinhua new agency. And with the “Olympic baby” fever, the numbers of babies will be even higher.

The baby boom has already started to put strains on schools and hospitals and later on, job markets. Experts warn irrational selective births could result in a shortage of social resources.

“The birth rush will create a series of shortages starting from when babies are born to the time when they look for jobs,” said Yu Hai, a sociology professor in Shanghai-based Fudan University.

Last year, when “millennium babies” reached school age, schools around the country were reportedly packed to capacity. Primary schools in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China’s Gansu Province, saw a jump of enrolment numbers by 10 to 30 percent in 2006.

Parents who had babies in the Year of the Pig have found that the procedure of having a delivery in a good hospital or looking for nannies a frustrating ordeal, as beds and nannies were booked in advance.

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