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Pop song lifts hearts of Chinese athletes

By WANG XU in Tokyo and CUI JIA in Beijing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-08-07 07:53
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Gong Xiangyu of China, Wang Yuanyuan of China, and Wang Mengjie of China celebrate winning the match at the Volleyball - Women's Pool B against Italy in Tokyo, Japan, on July 31, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

After the Chinese women's volleyball team beat Argentina 3-0 on Monday and concluded their Tokyo Olympics campaign, the tear-jerking Chinese pop song Sunshine Always Comes After the Storm started to play at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

"Although the Chinese team's Olympic journey is over, we will always support the Chinese women's volleyball team!" was read out in Mandarin and filled the empty arena and heard loud and clear by Chinese fans watching the live broadcast.

The women's volleyball players then gathered around and burst into tears as the music continued to play. After digesting the emotional scene, many Chinese fans started to ask the same questions: Who played the song? And who said those words?

The answer is Li Helin, a staff member of the Tokyo Olympics sports presentation team. Li, 33, has been assigned as one of the live hosts in Japanese and English at the volleyball venue.

He's responsible for putting together a playlist of more than 100 trending Chinese songs to be played by DJs when team China gains advantages during the games. It can easily make the Chinese fans and the players feel like watching and playing games hosted in China when cheesy songs like Small Apple and the theme song of the classic Chinese TV series Journey to the West started to play, Li said.

"I also asked the players what songs they want to hear prior to the games. I want to try my best to create a familiar atmosphere even when they are away from home and root for them in my way," said Li, who is the only Chinese in the sports presentation team in the Tokyo Olympics.

Zhang Changning, a hitter of the team, recommended songs including YES! OK!-the theme song of a reality show and Super Power from the singer G.E.M after soliciting opinions from the others, so Li said he also included them in the playlist.

Because of his passion for volleyball, Li has hosted sand and indoor volleyball games since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Currently, he has been working in the financial sector in Japan and hosting volleyball games during his free time. In April, he learned that he was selected as a host for the Tokyo Olympics volleyball games.

Besides selecting songs for the playlist, Li has been teaching other hosts at the Tokyo Olympics to properly pronounce the names of the Chinese players. "They all did a great job. Some even started to perfect their pronunciations."

Although Li didn't need to host any games on Monday, he got permission to announce the line-up of the team because, whether or not they won, it would be the team's last game at the Tokyo Olympics.

He then asked the DJ to play the song Sunshine Always Comes After the Storm at the end of game. "I also asked the director if I could say a few words at the end because Lang Ping, head coach of the team, would be retiring after the game. After he approved the content of my announcement, I managed to let the players know that they've got the support of Chinese fans no matter what," Li said.

Zhang Jun, 54, a fan of the Chinese women's volleyball team, said she was greatly touched after hearing the song while watching the players' emotional farewells to Lang on the court side.

"It's such an appropriate song for the emotional moment, which will be the start of a new era for the team. The one who played it deserves a pat on the back," she said.

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