Chinese Tweeters celebrate Olympics with '#080808'

A new online movement less than 24 hours old seeks to spread the Olympic spirit among users of the Twitter micro-blogging site.

Using "#080808" (pronounced "tag 080808"), a symbol for the date of the Olympics opening day, August 8, 2008, is "just for fun, a way to 'write down' the day," said Steven Lin, one of the movement's co-founders, who works for official Olympic Web site Sohu.com as a project manager.

Founded by Lin and two other Internet industry managers, they conceived of the idea on Wednesday, and only began propagating it on Thursday. Lin, who tweets as "flypig," said they chose #080808 for a number of reasons but for one above all others: it was easy to type, including on a cell phone.

Also, despite earlier incarnations such as #BJ08 or #BJNOW, Lin and co-founding tweeters "webleon," also based in Beijing, were shot down by Shanghai-based "babechloe." Chloe, who works in the video department of Web site Hexun, suggested #080808 for those who wanted to celebrate the day but were turned off by references to Beijing.

Regional identities and rivalries are strong in China, and people in one city or province are often reluctant to fully embrace activities, ideas or cuisine specifically associated with another area.

Although the number of #080808 tweeters is not known, a new one is being added about every half-second, as of noon in Beijing local time. Applications are now being written for the movement, including an Adobe Photoshop overlay, allowing users to superimpose the slogan over their Twitter avatars.

Such online movements are now an established phenomenon in China. Chinese Internet users adorned their MSN Messenger icons with (L) China, or "Love China," in a display of solidarity during heavy overseas protests against the Olympic torch relay. This was later replaced with rainbows following the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province.

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