Li hails the Olympic spirit

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO SHENG­NAN in Nan­jing zhaosheng­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Clap­ping and chant­ing, more than 60,000 spec­ta­tors and over 3,000 ath­letes braved rain as mag­nif­i­cent fire­works lit the sky above the Nan­jing Olympic Sports Cen­ter Sta­dium, mark­ing the end of the 13-day 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

For the young ath­letes from 204 coun­tries and re­gions, it’s only a brief farewell to the eu­pho­ria orig­i­nat­ing from ef­forts to be­come bet­ter, stronger and faster. In their eyes, the event is a start­ing line for the true pas­sion of sport and a plat­form to deepen their com­pre­hen­sion of real com­pe­ti­tion and friend­ship.

In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach made no se­cret of his praise for the Games as he in­tro­duced their cli­max on Thurs­day even­ing.

He called the Games’ or­ga­ni­za­tion “per­fectly flaw­less” and ex­pressed thanks to the Chi­nese and Jiangsu gov­ern­ments.

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang met the gala’s vol­un­teers on Thurs­day in the host city of Nan­jing as he hailed the spirit of ser­vice in the eco­nom­i­cally strong coun­try.

The Youth Olympics flame was go­ing out, but the vol­un­teer spirit will be eter­nal, Li told a crowd of vol­un­teers of dif­fer­ent ages, ca­pac­i­ties and na­tion­al­i­ties.

China needs progress not only in ma­te­rial terms but also a spir­i­tual pur­suit to achieve na­tional devel­op­ment and good liv­ing con­di­tions for its peo­ple, he said.

Call­ing vol­un­teers “un­sung he­roes”, the pre­mier clicked the thumbs-up sign on the Youth Olympics vol­un­teer team’s mi­cro blog and en­cour­aged them to ex­pand their spirit and moral strength.

The vol­un­teers Li met on Thurs­day were part of the 20,000 who worked at the 13-day Youth Olympics, which drew 3,800 ath­letes from 204 coun­tries com­pet­ing in 28 sports.

More than 92 per­cent of them were col­lege stu­dents based in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, and around 200 were in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teers from more than 20 coun­tries and re­gions.

Raqibul Has­san, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi work­ing as a guest ser­vice as­sis­tant at the Games, said al­though he is a for­eign vol­un­teer he would also like to be a “call­ing card” for China.

“When­ever I wear the vol­un­teer uni­form, I rep­re­sent both China and Bangladesh,” the stu­dent at Nan­jing Univer­sity of Aero­nau­tics and Astro­nau­tics said in flu­ent Chi­nese. “I’ve made a lot of Chi­nese friends here and learned more about Chi­nese cul­ture, even the Chi­nese tra­di­tional and philo­soph­i­cal con­cept of yin and yang.”

The meet­ing on Thurs­day was not the first en­counter between Chi­nese lead­ers and the Youth Olympics vol­un­teers re­cently.

One month be­fore the cur­tain was raised on the Games, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping en­cour­aged vol­un­teers to spread Chi­nese cul­ture, tell Chi­nese sto­ries and cast a good im­age of Chi­nese young peo­ple with youth­ful pas­sion, as if they are “call­ing cards” of the coun­try.

The Games are not only a sport­ing event, but also an op­por­tu­nity for ex­changes of feel­ings and ideas between Chi­nese young peo­ple and their for­eign peers, Xi said in cor­re­spon­dence with vol­un­teers in July.

Zhang Zhao­hui, an ex­pert at the Bei­jing Bureau of Sports, said the re­marks by Xi and Li were a recog­ni­tion and en­cour­age­ment to all vol­un­teer work, not just for ma­jor sports events.

Since the Bei­jing Olympic Games in 2008, vol­un­teers have be­come more in­volved in Chi­nese peo­ple’s daily lives, said Zhang, cit­ing 40,000 vol­un­teer sports in­struc­tors across the cap­i­tal as an ex­am­ple.

Xia Anning, 59, said she and her hus­band, Wang Qinghua, were sur­prised that their vol­un­teer­ing gained at­ten­tion from friends and the coun­try’s lead­ers.

“We want to con­tinue mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety with our lan­guage skills af­ter re­tire­ment,” said Xia, who can speak flu­ent English. “I hope that one day, vol­un­teer­ing be­comes such a com­mon thing that peo­ple sel­dom talk about it. At that time, it must be a har­mo­nious so­ci­ety.”

The next Sum­mer Youth Olympic Games will be hosted by the city of Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina, in 2018.

WEI XIAOHAO / CHINA DAILY

Cana­dian singer Carlo Aspri (cen­ter left) per­forms with youth ath­letes at the Nan­jing Olympic Sports Cen­ter Sta­dium dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony of 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, on Thurs­day.

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