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BRUSSELS ? Flying high above Europe's economic crisis, a local lightning-fast pigeon called Bolt became the world's most expensive racing bird when his Belgian breeder sold it for 310,000 euros ($400,000) to a Chinese businessman.

One-year-old Bolt, named after the Jamaican Olympic superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, and with an outstanding pedigree of proven champions to match, was the latest Belgian-bred pigeon to claim record prices. Yet it surprised anyone involved in the sport, auction house Pipa said. The previous record for a sale of a single bird stood at 250,000 euros ($322,000) from January 2012.

`'I was stunned by the prices offered, `' Pipa CEO Nikolaas Gyselbrecht said Tuesday. At a time when a crisis is holding Europe in an ever tighter grip, a feathered handful of prime fowl of some 450 grams (a pound) is reaching unparalleled levels. The full auction of the Leo Heremans coop, 530 birds in all, also yielded a world record of 4.345 million euros ($5.58 million) more than double the previous record from last year.

`'One of the reasons there is no economic impact is that buyers are spread around the globe," Gyselbrecht said. `'Over 20 countries were bidding last weekend. So if there is a crisis in one country, it might be less so in another," leveling out a downturn in Europe.

And at the other side of the world's interest is booming in the Far East. And part of the attraction is huge prize money involved.

The birds have become so precious though, that Bolt has had his last race already, one year after being picked as Belgium's National Ace speed young birds 2012. Once in China, he'll be used for breeding only and the offspring will be used in the high-priced competitive races.

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