London's Chinatown offers bonus treat for Olympics

Updated: 2012-07-28 17:35:15

By Liu Yanqiu (

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Millions of tourists flocking to London for the Olympics this year are welcomed by a bonus treat – a dazzling array of regional Chinese cuisines at London's iconic Chinatown.

With an expansive choice of dishes from the wheat-heavy north to the rice-based south, one would be lost for choice without the help of Chinatown Information Hub, a project where volunteers give visitors directions and suggestions.

As well, the volunteers will tell their visitors the history Chinatown, and how it evolved over the years to become the pride of their community. The hub runs from noon to 8pm everyday between July 22 and September 9.

"This is an opportunity for people from all over the world to discover the new face of Chinatown," said Joseph Wu, of the British Chinese Project (BC Project), which is jointly organizing the project with Chinese Information and Advice Centre (CIAC) and London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA).

"Our Chinatown used to be about Cantonese food, but it now has Malaysian barbeque, Shanghai Xiaolongbao, as well as food from Hunan, Sichuan, Dongbei and Taiwan. We want visitors to try new things," Wu added.

The key information point will be located on Charing Cross Road, where CIAC is based, and the second information point will be inside an iconic pavilion at the heart of Chinatown's cluster of restaurants.

Between 2 and 4 volunteers are staying at each point and other volunteers will walk around Chinatown to help visitors.

CIAC chairman Edmond Yeo was first to come up with the idea. He then helped the project to successfully apply for the London 2012 Olympic Inspire Mark, a status awarded to non-commercial projects that use the Games as a starting point to create changes within communities.

Since the Inspire program's launch in 2008, more than 2,700 projects have been carried out across the UK, involving more than 10,000 people.

Other Inspire projects include disability sports challenges, leadership training sessions, arts exhibitions, amongst others, across six key areas: sustainability, education, volunteering, business, sport and culture.

Since the beginning of this year, the Chinatown Information Hub project has been advertising for volunteers across major Chinese newspapers, and almost 100 volunteers have been recruited so far.

"We want to do something that rely on volunteers, who are not necessarily Chinese, but are a part of the British Chinese community. We want to showcase what the British Chinese community is capable of doing," said Yeo.

The volunteers all wore a pale blue T-shirt and a white jacket with the words "London 2012 Chinatown Ambassadors" written across, alongside a Chinatown gateway logo.

They will also receive training across several weekends, and be awarded either gold, silver or bronze medals based on their contributions after the project finishes.

Wu said that the Olympics bear special significance for London's Chinese community, bringing them "almost the excitement they felt for the Beijing Olympics".

He said that there used to be a time when Chinese people in London were very career focused, and did not like getting involved in many projects. "But the Beijing Olympics changed that."

In 2008, as China's ambassador to Britain Fu Ying carried the torch through Chinatown, the streets were crowded with Chinese students and professionals who cheered her on.

Another program BC Project recently launched is BCTV, a media project encouraging young Chinese people to film their observations of Chinatown during the Olympics.

Thomas Hor, a senior lecturer in media production at Kingston University, will lead the filming sessions.

"The goal is to get more Chinese people involved in the media where we currently have a low representation," said Wu.

"The Olympics is a worldwide movement, and we want to make use of the energy associated with it to encourage young people to do things they might not think about doing, but actually have the capability and potential to do well," he added.

Medal Count

1 46 29 29
2 38 27 22
3 29 17 19
4 24 25 33
5 13 8 7
6 11 19 14

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