OLYMPICS / Olympic Life

Olympic volunteers find time amid bustle for Chinese 'Valentine's Day'

Updated: 2008-08-08 00:05


BEIJING--An hour of window shopping near campus, an hour of eating hot and spicy food, and an overnight shift in the Olympic Village, that is the Qixi Festival for volunteers Wen Zuotian and his girlfriend Tang Yue.

Wen and Tang, both second years at Beijing Language and Culture University, met each other one year and a half years ago after joining the university's Pre-Olympic Volunteer Team, a student organization in Beijing's preparation for the Games.

The pair fell in love on a training program during the May Day holiday. So it is the first time that they have been able to celebrate the Qixi Festival as partners.

Thursday saw the Qixi Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the so-called "Chinese Valentine's Day", is based on a love story of a cowherd and a fairy seamstress.

Niu Lang, the industrious cowherd, fell in love with a beautiful fairy Zhinu. They got married and soon had a son and a daughter. But their love was interfered with by Empress Wangmu and her husband the Jade Emperor, the supreme deity in Taoism, because marriage between a mortal and fairy was strictly forbidden.

Wangmu separated the couple by drawing a river in the sky, the Milky Way, with her hairpin between them. However, touched by the love, pied magpies come in flocks every Qixi night to form a bridge spanning the galaxy with their bodies so Niulang and Zhinu can meet.

In the Chinese world, Qixi is regarded as the most romantic traditional festival. This year's Qixi is quite special for many young lovers, including Wen and Tang, because it is just one day before the Beijing Olympics.

Wen works in the sports video center in the Olympic Village and Tang in the welcome center. They began working as volunteers two weeks ago.

"We only have lunch together while in the Village," said Wen. "She often finishes later than me, so sometimes we cannot go back to campus together in the night."

Since the Village officially open on July 27, it is extremely busy for Tang, an English major, for the center is receiving hundreds of people.

Gazing at the Milky Way together and quietly listening to Niulang and Zhinu could have been an option for them on the Qixi night. But they have to work in the Village.

"I'll begin my work in 3:30 p.m. and her night duty begins at 7 p.m.," said Wen, an information management major. "So we can't spend the Qixi night together."

"I'm a bit gloomy about that. But the day is still especially meaningful for us because we are Olympic volunteers and the Beijing Olympics will open tomorrow," said the 21-year old young man from Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Tang is from Chongqing, a neighboring municipality to Sichuan, and both of them like hot and spicy food. So they decided to have a hometown-flavored lunch together after shopping around a little near the campus on Thursday noon.

After the small celebration for Qixi, Tang needed to have a siesta for she would work nearly 12 hours till 7 a.m. Friday in the welcome center. And Wen went to the Village directly.

"I'll try to buy a gift and give it to her in the welcome center tonight," said Wen.

The pair are pretty luckier. At least they work in the Village and can meet for a while on the Qixi night. Among the more than 70,000 Games-time volunteers, many lovers were assigned to posts in different venues. It is not easy for them to celebrate the Festival together.

Wang Shuo, Tang's schoolmate and colleague in the welcome center, would spend the Qixi night alone. Her boyfriend Hao Shuai, an NOC (National Olympic Committee) assistant, has to accompany a visiting VIP from Qatar.

"Actually we won't meet until Saturday," said Wang, who will also take a night duty with Tang."So we'll spend the Qixi night for a few minutes on the phone, besides the gifts," she said.

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