Multinational cohort of helpers contributes to sports event success
Intl volunteers pitch in Asian Games
Published: Sep 26, 2023 08:24 PM
The Deqing Sports Centre Gymnasium Photo: Courtesy of Hangzhou Asian Games organizing committee

The Deqing Sports Centre Gymnasium Photo: Courtesy of Hangzhou Asian Games organizing committee

The successful hosting of a global multi-sport event is not possible without the assistance of volunteers. Amid the Hangzhou Asian Games held in East China's Zhejiang Province, a volunteer team made up of international students and teachers has been playing an important role in contributing to the Asian sports showcase.

When visitors arrive in Huzhou, about 88 kilometers north of Hangzhou, and the volleyball and 3x3 basketball events' host city, they are warmly welcomed at the high-speed railway station and high way exit by the international volunteer team named Younger.

Ma Jiajia, an official with the local community office in Deqing county, Huzhou, told the Global Times that the Younger volunteer team was founded in 2021 thanks to the large number of foreign students there. 

In July 2022, some foreign students from the Zhejiang University of Technology also joined the team, making it a 150-member multinational group with volunteers from as far afield as Morocco, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Nepal among other nations.

"The international volunteers not only help communicate with foreign visitors, but also promote exchanges and mutual multicultural learning through the Asian Games," said Ma. 

"The Asian Games offers a great opportunity for the volunteers to give full play to their language advantage and contribute to the sporting event," Ma noted. 

Prior to the Hangzhou Games, the volunteer team hosted language learning workshops for local children, helping them better understand the multi-sport event in English. 

A total of 37,600 volunteers, mainly students from 46 universities in Zhejiang Province as well as some organization and management professionals in ­foreign languages and medicine, completed a grueling and rapid testing and interview process to assist in the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou. There are 230 international volunteers.

Sporting turquoise uniforms, the official volunteer is dubbed "Little Qinghe," similar in pronunciation to the English word "genial," and represents the spirit of youth and geniality. 

The volunteers convened a month ahead of the Games to participate in test matches and intensive training to gain hands-on experience.

Jack Wyldeck from Australia Photo: Courtesy of Wang Shucheng

Jack Wyldeck from Australia Photo: Courtesy of Wang Shucheng

Blend of modernity and tradition

Jack Wyldeck, an Australian teacher working at a bilingual K12 school in Deqing, joined the Younger team in 2022. During the Games, he is based in the Deqing high speed railway station, and acts as a guide for arriving visitors. 

Jack, who is an avid fan of chess and badminton, told the Global Times that the Asian Games will help boost the city's image. 

"I think the Games will make Deqing a more famous place. I've already seen that Deqing has undergone massive renovations, including nice structures and mascots statues newly established around the county. It creates a vibrant sporting atmosphere in Deqing as well as Huzhou," said Jack. 

In addition to the floral displays and mascot statues installed around Huzhou to refurbish the city landscape, a driverless bus, operating on a 10-kilometer circular route in Deqing, will whisk passengers back and forth between the Deqing Sports Centre Gymnasium, the volleyball event venue, and the Deqing Geographic Information Town Basketball Court, the 3x3 basketball event venue.

In line with the Hangzhou Games' ethos of "green, smart, economical, and ethical," the volleyball venue is a renovated old gym. 

Another volunteer from Younger, Houssam el Mir, told the Global Times that he is excited to be a part of the Hangzhou Asian Games and looks forward to contributing to its success.

Houssam, from Morocco, is an undergraduate at the Zhejiang University of Technology, pursuing a bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering.

His love for Hangzhou, a city known for its beautiful natural scenery, particularly the West Lake, is only enhanced by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage list site. 

"The blend of modernity and tradition in Hangzhou is quite captivating. Moreover, Hangzhou is famous for its rich culture, and the warm hospitality of its people. It's a great place to live and study," said Houssam.

During the Games, Houssam is providing volunteer services in different venues and locations, providing information to visitors and assisting in administrative tasks including event management and logistics, thanks to previous volunteer experience in local activities for community events in Zhejiang before the Games.

Houssam el Mir Photo: Courtesy of Ma Jiajia

Houssam el Mir (right) Photo: Courtesy of Ma Jiajia

Electrifying atmosphere

"I'm excited to watch a variety of events during the Hangzhou Games, particularly athletics. Athletics represents the pinnacle of human physical performance, and it's always thrilling to witness athletes from different countries competing at the highest level. The atmosphere at the track and field events is electrifying," Houssam added.

For the foreign athletes that come to Hangzhou, Jack recommended not to hurry back home after finishing their competitions. 

"I want them to stay in China as long as they can and really enjoy everything it offers. In addition to the food and nature, you will find interacting with the local people to be interesting. For example, you can try playing Chinese chess with the old men around the banks of the West Lake and talk to them or you may participate in some square dancing with the ladies," said the Australian.

"Hopefully you can learn a little bit of Chinese before you come over and then you can make friends for life. People will add you on WeChat and bond with you via this app. Making friends and sharing experiences together is great and that's partly what's kept me going for adventures so long," Jack added.