Beijing Olympics: the sacrifices of Chinese volunteers

Without them, the machine of the Olympic Games could not function. Reception of participants, information on the transport system, catering… Volunteers are the essential cog in the Olympics.

At the Beijing Games, they would be 20,000, or almost one volunteer for every three participants. Mostly young people, in blue and white down jackets. In excess, as in Tokyo six months ago, since the presence of the public is very weak. At the start, there were many candidates: the organizing committee, contacted, puts the number at one million.

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The mission, however, involves sacrifices. Each volunteer had to enter the ” closed loop “ to confine themselves before the start of the Olympics. Unlike the Tokyo Olympics, they do not go home after work. The organizing committee wanted to make these Games totally hermetic. Once the event is over, they will also have to undergo quarantine. In total, they would thus spend 70 days isolated from the rest of the population.

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Most speak very little English. They pull out a digital translator, a necessary intermediary, but which sometimes gives rise to endless palaver, to find out the timetable for a bus or the location of a site.

“We are very strong”

In Yanqing, where the alpine skiing events are held, I tried to get in touch with some of them to find out how they experienced these Games. Embarrassed reaction. “We have to ask our manager. » So here we are on the stairs of the press center, to meet the said manager. “You must contact the communication manager”, she says, before sending me a number.

New test in Zhangjiakou a few days later, without going through the hierarchy. Successfully this time. Behind his glasses and his N95 mask (the equivalent of FFP2), Liang (1), enthusiastic, slips a few words in French, learned during his studies. Is it difficult to have to cut yourself off from your loved ones for several weeks? “You know, we are very strong, and we have great values, answers the young woman of 20 years, in English. I’m very happy to be here, so no, it’s not difficult! »

Beside him, Shu (1) nods. “At first, I didn’t find it convenient, but you get used to it. » The 23-year-old is studying communication in Beijing. It was the Summer Games, organized by Beijing in 2008, that made him want to apply. She has since taken an interest in the disciplines of skiing, “which are not in our culture”and now has a passion for champion Eileen Gu.

They are both so close and so far from the Games that they have to watch on television, from the press center whose reception they manage. And on rest days? “We all watch sports together on TV. You know, it’s a closed loop! » For now, it’s winter vacation. But Shu is ready to follow her lessons by video to continue the adventure, during the Paralympic Games (from March 4 to 13).


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