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Young volunteers' spirit felt in parting's sweet sorrow

By Jin Dan | | Updated: 2022-02-22 11:08
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When you are in a grand ceremony, you can easily get swept up into a collective sentiment.

Like, the Moment of Remembrance staged at the Beijing 2022 closing ceremony. When the dancers performed with a bunch of willow twigs in spring, I instantly grasped its Chinese significance of departing and my eyes went misty for the romance of saying goodbye.

Like, the countless cheerful moments inspired by the young volunteers. Honestly, sitting still outside in Beijing's February night also feels chilly and cold. And the view from my spot in the audience stands may be inferior to a splendid panoramic TV livestreaming. But I felt surreally fascinated when the strong sentiment surrounding me became so real. And, the strong sentiment, mostly, initiated by the young volunteers.

"Welcome to the closing ceremony. Please get your tickets ready before entering the entrance." We don't know how many times they repeated it in a day, but each time, each person they were speaking to, with a smile. "Please mind your steps and enjoy your night." Even in the dark, when I tried to step down from the stairs where the volunteer stood, I could sense her smile from her voice. And I knew, she must have repeated those words thousands of times, with a smile. When International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach praised the volunteers in his closing speech, "You warmed our hearts with your smiling eyes. Your kindness will stay with us forever," I saw the volunteers in my section making big heart gestures with their arms. It was a lovely scene. And indeed, their genuine gesture and smile warmed me in the chilly night.

They reminded me of myself 14 years ago. I was also their age, a college junior, volunteering for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. I was also that energetic, passionate, proud in the work assigned to me. I must have also worn the same smile on my face at that time, as the sense of pride resurged in me when I saw the younger faces the night of the closing of Beijing 2022.

The same city. The same stadium. The same stage. The same director paid tribute to Beijing's dual glory in hosting both Summer and Winter Olympics through the highlights of the 2008 Games opening ceremony. When You and Me, the theme song for 2008, replayed at Bird's Nest, I was too touched to utter a word. I suddenly felt it is not a song to connect people from different backgrounds, but also to connect people of different generations, like today's volunteers and me.

And, that's Beijing's lasting legacy.

On the way out of Bird's Nest, I heard a volunteer cheering loudly, "Together for a shared future." I asked him to repeat that in front of my camera, and he did, just like I did with a smile in 2008. Yes, we shared the same confidence in this world's future.

And I think this is what the Olympics means for ordinary people like us. It is a sense beyond sports. It's about a sense of belonging and belief in humanity.

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