Yao Ties the Knot–and Slam Dunks the Paparazzi

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China’s basketball super star Yao Ming got married yesterday here in Shanghai. His wife, Ye Li, also plays hoops for the national team, and is herself six feet two inches tall (Yao’s 7’6”) which has led to all sorts of jokes about their forthcoming 12 foot tall children. (Ever mindful of guests with special needs, the Shangri La hotel, where the wedding party was held made a custom bed for the couple, this one 2.5 meters long, compared to the standard 2.2 meter size)
Yao’s wedding was a huge deal—he is of course wildly popular here at home—so the press was intensely interested in the party. There were about 70 relatives attending the reception, and about 100 journalists trying to cover it. But Yao made sure the paparazzi had no shots—even though they tried valiantly. Some reporters and photographers hid out in the men’s room on the ballroom floor where the party was held, figuring at some point Yao would have to use it during the festivities. No such luck.
Other enterprising photogs checked into the hotel the day before the wedding and hoped because they were fellow hotel guests they might be able to snap a few candid shots of the happy couple. Again, not a chance—they weren’t allowed anywhere near the banquet hall, and never stumbled upon Yao and Ye.
Yao did hire two photographers to shoot at the party, but made sure they couldn’t sell any shots to the press after it was over. Before they left, they had to turn over their film to security guards manning the doors.
Yao did take did take some pity on the poor shooters. He released one shot from the party to the press, and his PR people also gave all the reporters a CD ROM containing the staged shots most Chinese couples have taken at a “wedding studio” before the event itself. (Speaking from experience—my wife and I did this too—these shots are usually painfully stiff; you have to hold awkward poses for what seems like forever as the photog snaps away. In some cases the studio makes you change into various outfits; it’s a totally different drill from the usual, after the wedding ceremony photos taken in the West. Ugh. I have to give Yao credit for some guts handing out the CD containing these shots. I don’t think I’d even pass ours onto our daughter in my will…)
Anyway, if, a year from now Yao shuts down opposing shooters in Beijing the way he shut down the photographers yesterday in Shanghai, China might actually win a hoops medal at Olympics 08.