Volunteers find the world in their grasp

Updated: 2012-08-12 10:20:23

By Li Xiang and Qiu Bo ( China Daily)

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Olympic volunteers find that the world is in their grasp, Li Xiang and Qiu Bo discover in London.

For Gemma Herens, a 23-year-old volunteer of the London Olympics, the Games is truly an international and borderless event.

Herens, who has just graduated from the University of London with a bachelor's degree in Chinese and economics, considers herself a Londoner because she was born and raised here.

Volunteers find the world in their grasp

British volunteer Eloise Paterson (center) poses for a photo with members of the Coldstream Guards regiment, the oldest regiment in the British Army. [Photo/Agencies]

But she comes from an international family - her mother is a Beijinger and her father is a French sports journalist with the BBC in London.

So when there are Chinese, French and British teams competing, the family will cheer for all the athletes.

"I'm mixed and the Olympic Games is also an event that gathers people from different countries with different racial and cultural backgrounds," she says.

The ability to speak English, Chinese and French fluently gave her an extra advantage during the volunteer selection process.

Her daily job is to help sponsors of the London Olympic Games arrange their activities in the Olympic park and receive guests invited by the sponsors to the Games.

But this is not Herens' first Olympic experience; she also volunteered at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She still keeps the pin of the Beijing Games on her backpack, and can still recall the impressive opening ceremony in Beijing.

Volunteers find the world in their grasp

Volunteers watch a performance at break. [Photo/Agencies]

Herens says that the London opening ceremony was not as delicate and glamorous as the Beijing one, but it was more modest and more down-to-earth.

"It was like London Mayor Boris Johnson, who always has a cheerful spirit with his signature haircut," she says.

"The most rewarding thing of being an Olympic volunteer, among other things, is that young people can work together and celebrate the sports spirit no matter which country you come from or what degrees or backgrounds you have," she says.

Among the 70,000 volunteers are Chinese students in London who have actively participated in the event.

Li Qian, a 29-year-old student from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, worked at the volleyball stadium. Her job included ticket checking, providing transport information to spectators, and helping with security checks.

Although volunteers are unpaid and usually work up to nine hours a day, Li and her colleagues are upbeat as they consider themselves lucky to be part of the event.

Li says she had worked with volunteers from Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore.

"The job can be tough because we are usually the earliest to arrive in the stadium and the last ones to leave. But still, it is a very enjoyable experience as I get to work with people from all over the world, and being helpful is a very happy feeling," she says.

Li says she is most impressed by spectators from Brazil and Poland.

"They were always hugging and cheering with each other. Their excitement literally turned the volleyball match into a football game as they made the large human waves on the seats."

Volunteer Liu Xiaoshuang, a 28-year-old Chinese, says that her 10th summer in London has turned out to be a unique one because of her participation in the London Games.

"We aslo play other roles," she says. "We are being more like the 'imagine ambassador' of the city and a supporter of the 'Green Olympics' idea."

She works at transport junctions, and public zones near the stadiums. Her job is giving directions and guiding foreign tourists in the downtown area with the highest flow of tourists.

Liu says the volunteers were told to encourage people to walk rather than drive or take the public transport.

"It only takes about 20 minutes to walk from Leicester Square to Big Ben," she says. "It's a convenient way to take a tour here."

To provide sufficient information to the tourists, Liu, a foreigner herself, has to be quite familiar with every road and path that may guide the tourists efficiently.

"Almost every Chinese student chose to stay in London this summer," says Pei Tingting, an official from London-based South Bank University. "They are either working as volunteers or watching the Games." In previous years, two-thirds of them would spent their summer vacation back in China, Pei adds.

"Our brilliant volunteers seem to be having an extraordinary impact on every one they get to meet," says Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London organizing committee.

Contact the writers at lixiang@chinadaily.com.cn and qiubo@chinadaily.com.cn.

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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