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FIFA to fly kung fu abbot to final

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, July 5 (Reuters) The abbot of China's ancient Shaolin Temple will fly to Germany to watch the World Cup final at the invitation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, state media reported today.

The FIFA invitation came thanks to the growing influence of the Shaolin Temple and Shaolin kung fu, Xinhua news agency quoted abbot Shi Yongxin as saying.

The temple opened a Shaolin ''cultural centre'' in Germany in 2001, Xinhua said.

The 1,500 year-old Buddhist temple in China's central province of Henan is famous as the birthplace of Shaolin kung fu but is best known in the West as the training ground of David Carradine's main character, Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1970s ''Kung Fu'' television series.

Much of the temple's high profile can be attributed to Abbot Shi, who has applied to protect the Shaolin brand with international trademarks and upgraded the image and the facilities of the temple.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the temple in March.

Shi's enthusiasm for commercialism has even spawned plans for a reality TV show aimed at unearthing the next generation of kung fu stars.

The World Cup final is in Berlin on Sunday, when Italy will take on the winner of today's second semi-final between Portugal and France.

REUTERS PDS SSC1222

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