CHINA> Profiles
Volunteers fulfill dreams, ambitions
By Wu Jiao and Li Aoxue (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-08-08 07:51


Khalid Malik, head of the UN System in China and resident representative of UNDP, presents a certificate of appreciation for distinctive volunteer service to student Zhao Du. Huo Yan

Asakura Hiroyuki, 33, a former Japanese sports TV anchor, received some good news in June - he had been selected as a softball volunteer.

Being a softball fan, as many Japanese are, Hiroyuki has been assigned to the Fengtai Sports Center where the softball competition will be held for the last time. The event will be dropped at the 2012 Games.

"It's a great pity for most Japanese that softball will have to leave the Olympics.

"So I will do my best, and hope the softball games attract a lot of spectators," Hiroyuki said at a press conference at the Beijing International Media Center.

Hiroyuki is as one of the 935 foreign volunteers who are fluent in Chinese.

While they all have the same passion for the Olympics, for many it is also the fulfillment of a dream to serve as a volunteer.

Hnin Hnin Aye, 25, from Myanmar, and a volunteer at the Spectators Call Center, is also seeking her cultural roots. Her grandfather is from Yunnan province.

"I learned Chinese as a child, but I understand little about the culture," Aye, who studies at the Capital Normal University, said.

For some volunteers it has meant rescheduling their jobs and summer vacations.

Oyinlola Celestin Chabi, 46, from Benin needed to rearrange his work schedule at his Beijing-based company in order to serve as a volunteer at the Main Press Center.

"Many of the volunteers are heads of transnational companies based in Canada and the United States. They have come to serve of their own free will," he said.

Frenchman Francis Wacquant, 68, a spectator services volunteer, said: "The Olympics is a time to put aside all problems and disputes and simply enjoy the event and friendship of all nations."

"I do not consider my age as a barrier to serve. I am very fit," he said.

Four volunteers were honored yesterday by the United Nations in China and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) volunteer department for their contributions.

Ranging from 15 to 87 years of age, they not only contributed to the preparation of the Games, but also worked as volunteers in the Wenchuan earthquake, helping in environmental problems, and mentoring migrant youths living in the city.

Sun Fangquan, 87, said he was very excited about the Games and will try his best to serve as a good volunteer. Sun will man the information counter at the Bird Nest stadium.

Achim Steiner, US under secretary-general and executive director of the UN Environment Program, said: "No matter who wins the most medals at the Games, one thing is clear - these volunteers will win the hearts and minds of all visitors to Beijing."