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Luigi Ferella: The man responsible for paving the way for Olympic history

China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-13 08:55
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Luigi Ferella has paved the way, literally, for champions worldwide. One of his proudest masterpieces is the 100-meter track in China's "Bird's Nest" National Stadium which saw Jamaican Usain Bolt smash the world record in a time of 9.69 seconds during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

With three decades of experience of paving scarlet rubber tracks for sports venues across the globe, the 60-year-old Italian technician has been laying tracks in China over the last decade, witnessing changes brought by the country's bid to build "a healthy China".

Amid the scorching heat in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi'an, construction of 12,000 square meters of rubber tracks is in full swing in the Olympic Center Stadium, which will host the opening ceremony and track and field competitions of the 14th National Games in 2021. To make sure every piece of pavement is properly installed, Ferella gets down on his knees together with the local workers.

"I wore clean clothes today because of the interview. Usually I don't wear clean clothes at work," Ferella told Xinhua jokingly, pointing at his white T-shirt.

Ferella sticks to his post from dusk to dawn in order to keep on schedule. Construction resumed after the COVID-19 epidemic eased, and venues for the National Games are expected to be completed by June 30, 2020.

Ferella said his favorite moment is always to see the last piece of surface being put in place.

The seasoned engineer still remembers that moment in 2008, two years after he arrived in China and worked for almost 20 hours a day to maintain the condition of the tracks in the Bird's Nest, that held the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field competitions of the Beijing Olympics.

All his efforts paid off when he witnessed Bolt break the world record to snatch the 100-meter gold medal on the track he paved. The Jamaican great became Ferella's idol, even though the sprinter had no idea of the story under his feet.

After the Beijing Olympics, Ferella participated in many flooring projects at large stadiums across the country.

"I work passionately every day to make sure our products improve athletes' performance without doing harm to their health," said Ferella, adding that their products feature anti-skidding and anti-friction technologies with excellent resilience.

Ferella said his booming business offers a glimpse into the rapid development of the sports industry in China, thanks to the government's huge investment in improving sports facilities across the country and promoting fitness among its people.

"To some extent, I envy Chinese athletes, because they are lucky to be in good times," he said.

Before arriving in Xi'an, Ferella worked in Hangzhou city, and before the two trips, he experienced a 14-day quarantine in the city of Shenzhen in southern China.

"The Chinese government has played a key role to effectively contain the virus, and the solidarity of Chinese people has impressed me a lot," he said.

He had been worried about the situation in his hometown, Rome, and is finally able to devote himself to his work now that the epidemic in Italy has subdued.

It's Ferella's first time visiting Xi'an, and quickly developed an appetite for roujiamo, a signature local snack resembling a burger, but has been too busy for a sightseeing trip to the Terracotta warriors.

"I hope it will rain for a few days, so I can take a break and look around this city," he said.

After completing the project in Xi'an, Ferella will move on to his next destination, Chengdu, where the World University Games will be held in 2021. "If there is any chance, I hope I could come back to Xi'an and feel the passion of the National Games in person," he said.


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