Foreign volunteers experience pre-Games Beijing (Olympics feature)

July 7th, 2008 - 10:05 am ICT by IANS  

By Wang Xiuqiong
Beijing, July 7 (Xinhua) Olympic volunteer Elizabeth Tuttle flew across the Pacific, touched down late and found herself directing a documentary on her second morning here. “Look at them! So cute,” said the journalism major from the University of Iowa as her cameraman zoomed in on several children dancing, or shaking, to Chinese folk music in a wooded area of Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

The pair arrived in Beijing June 23 with 22 overseas media volunteers to work at the upcoming Games. All were chosen from the University of Iowa and were preparing for their training by the Beijing Games’ organisers in mid-July.

Before getting down to business, however, they first took plenty of time to feast on Chinese food, experiencing the country to tell their people back home the stories.

“We’re doing a documentary for a local broadcasting station on whatever interesting things we encounter here,” Tuttle said. “Maybe we can get paid if it’s well done.”

There was a lot to shoot. Within the first week, the volunteers toured almost all must-visits in the ancient capital — Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall.

Tuttle won’t be the only amateur reporter. She was among 22,000 foreigners who had applied for volunteer posts at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Beijing is to host about 100,000 volunteers, 30,000 journalists and 14,000 athletes in August, while many more around the world are waiting to better know a country with 5,000 years of civilization and a rising voice in the global arena.

Nick Compton, who goes by the Chinese name “Ke Yicheng,” literally meaning “honest branch”, has done a lot of writing during his trip. He was invited by his school newspaper and local papers to update his experiences in the country each week.

“They’re curious about many things, mostly about the food. Is there really much pollution? Are there more squat toilets or sit-down toilets?” Compton said.

Beijing has budgeted $1.6 billion to host the Games and Chinese are showing even higher enthusiasm, with some one million locals having applied to serve as volunteers, 10 times the required number.

Meanwhile, the country’s leader has stated it was not a celebration of one country.

The upcoming Beijing Olympics belonged not only to the Chinese people, but also to people of Asia and the world, said President Hu Jintao three months ahead of the Games.

Before savouring the sporting spectacular, trying out chopsticks proved to be fun for the Iowa volunteers.

Peking duck, dan dan noodles, kung pao chicken and even Tibetan yogurt — the most intimate way of knowing a city was to taste it, which volunteer Daniel Libman fully understood. On his second day after arrival, he was asking a Tsinghua student where he could eat decent spicy food.

“Travel experience, work experience, passion for writing, passion for sports — we came here for different things, but for most people it’s a combination of them,” he said.

Fellow Iowan Elinathan Ohiomoba said she had fallen in love with the Olympics since watching the Atlanta Games in 1996 at the age of 10 years. She was volunteering at the tennis venue this summer, making notes on matches and interviewing athletes for media use.

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