Dual-Olympic workers ready for fresh challenge

By CUI JIA | China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-25 07:28
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Zhang Yimou, chief director for the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 and the 2022 Winter Games. Photo provided to China Daily

Numerous career paths changed after the 2008 Games in Beijing

Beijing is completing the finishing touches for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, as it prepares to become the first city in the world to host both the summer and winter versions of the sporting event.

In addition to venues built for the 2008 Summer Games that have become landmarks in the Chinese capital, the Olympics left a different kind of legacy-providing experience for those working at a top-level international sporting event.

Some 14 years on, many people who formed special bonds with the Games have been busy organizing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. They proudly refer to themselves as "dual-Olympic talent".

Zhang Xiaodan, deputy competition service manager at Beijing's National Speed Skating Oval, a venue for the Winter Games, said people with experience of the Summer Games have been working with organizing teams at every venue for next month's Olympics.

"They are like a secret force. Whenever we find someone who also took part in the 2008 Olympics, we immediately sense a special bond," she said.

"Not many people in the world have the opportunity to help organize two Olympics in the same city. Such an honor is, without a doubt, the result of a stronger and more confident China able to host both Games in such a short period."

Standing in front of the National Speed Skating Oval, dubbed the "Ice Ribbon", Zhang pointed to the diamond-shaped main stadium at the National Tennis Center in the distance, where she worked as a project manager in the operations department during the 2008 Games.

"I appear to have returned to the place where I started," she joked.

As well as showcasing China's achievements around the world, the 2008 Olympics changed the career paths of numerous people, including Zhang.

Zhang Xiaodan, deputy competition service manager at the National Speed Skating Oval, worked as a project manager for the 2008 Summer Games. ZHANG WEI/CHINA DAILY

From 2009 to 2016, she was a project manager in the large-scale events department at the National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, which will host curling events at the Winter Games. Now, she specializes in sports event operations.

"Few international sporting events were held in China before 2008, but in the past decade, the nation has hosted many, creating increased demand for related talent. Countless coordinated efforts need to be made to ensure the smooth running of a sporting event-and the Olympics are more complicated than most," Zhang said.

Her ties with the National Speed Skating Oval began in 2016, when the planning authority decided to build the venue on the site used to host field hockey at the 2008 Olympics. Zhang witnessed the entire construction process for the only newly built venue for ice events in Beijing.

With the city gaining experience from the 2008 Olympics, managing the Ice Ribbon after next month's Games has been prioritized from the design stage, with plans finalized before the Olympic opening ceremony takes place on Feb 4, Zhang said.

"Both the city and organizers had no experience of hosting Olympic events before 2008. Now, things are different. Not only is the 'dual-Olympic talent' more confident about organizing the Winter Olympics, other members of the organizing teams have learned lessons from hosting the 2008 Games. I'm sure we can tackle all kinds of challenges calmly, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

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