Sunday, December 12, 2010

‘It’s all Chinese to me’, but the rest is great

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post | Tue, 11/16/2010 9:53 AM | Sports
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Ask for directions or help from the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games volunteers and you will never get a direct answer. Most of the time you will receive the reply: “wait a minute”, and the person you addressed will go off to find someone from their team that can speak better English.

Although the language barrier is a small problem — it sometimes is frustrating, especially if you in a hurry. After all, there are 600,000 volunteers at the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games and Asian Para Games scattered on every corner of the city and in the neighboring towns to provide help for foreign delegates, journalists and spectators.

“For the first two days I found it very difficult but it got better after that,” said 20-year-old Liu Weihuan, who is a member of a press work room at the Nansha Gymnasium, the stage for the wushu competition.

“I do not understand if people speak English very quickly. But I can always call the translators or ask my partners. Team work is very important,” said Liu, who is taking a major in business English at the Guangzhou Vocational College of Technology and Business.

The Asian Games and the Asian Para Games have organized ap-proximately 600,000 volunteers, including 85,000 Games-time Volunteers (60,000 for the Asian Games and 25,000 for the Asian Para Games) and about 500,000 City Volunteers.

By the time the recruitment for the game-time volunteer ended on July 30, 2010, more than 900,000 people had applied to volunteer at the Asian Games and Asian Para Games, said Wang Huanqing, director of the Volunteers Department of the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.

This number does not include the people who applied for City Volunteers, for which registration was still open as of Sept. 30.

Among the applicants, 86.2 percent were residents of Guangzhou and nearly 70 percent were students and staff of higher education institutions. Some celebrities such as famous actress Qing Lan also volunteered.

The candidates were enlisted and were given training according to their assigned position for about one month. Liu was trained at his college and has had several chances to visit his work station to become familiar with the job. “We have come here several times to understand everything about the job and also we were given some material about the job,” Liu said.

Two days before the opening of the game, about 6,000 volunteers swore to serve the Opening Ceremony of the Guangzhou Asian Games in an oath-taking ceremony in Haixinsha, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.

“Serve best for the Asian Games. Come together to make it more wonderful!” they said.

The ceremony was attended by deputy directors of the Volunteers Department of the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (GAGOC) Wei Guohua, as well as some celebrities, including actress Qin Lan. Qin Lan joined the volunteer service after receiving a letter of appointment from the government.

Like the other volunteers, the 6 thousand volunteers have thought about every detail of the opening and closing ceremonies.

The GAGOC has given a wonderful name to the volunteer service stations, calling them “new life stations,” referencing the slogan of the Guangzhou Asian Games, “Experience the Games, Light up your life”.

Some 380 of the volunteers were designated “etiquette angels”, who would attend the 476 award ceremonies during the Games and the Asian Para Games. One of them was 18-year-old Ding Ling from Anhui province, who was selected to escort VIPs to present the very first gold medal won at the Games.

Aged between 17 and 25, the etiquette angels come mostly from universities in 90 cities, although a few are airline stewardesses, translators and white-collar workers.

All between 168 and 178 centimeters tall, they were chosen not only for their appearance but also for their spirit of teamwork, discipline and temperament.

The Miss Etiquettes were required to undergo a 40-day intensive training course. The most difficult part for Ding were the ballet lessons, as having no previous training her body was not flexible enough. She also had to learn to sit up straight.

Besides elegance training, they learned how to provide volunteer assistance, and received some training in music, English, communication skills and the ABCs of the Games.

“I learned a lot of things that I didn’t learn at school,” Ling told China Daily.

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