The Faces Behind the Beijing Games

Some of the Games' most impressive achievements come free of charge, courtesy of thousands Olympic volunteers.


BEIJING, China - Beijing has spared no expense to present the most extravagant Olympics ever. But some of the Games' most impressive achievements come free of charge, courtesy of hundreds of thousands Olympic volunteers. Green China Chen Guanming has spent the past seven years training for the Olympics, riding thousands of miles to come to Beijing. Like most athletes here, he is proud to represent his country. CHINA CONNECTION: Growing a Green China How Bad Is Beijing's Air Pollution? China Receives More than One Million Olympic Volunteer Applicants RELATED STORIES: Olympic Volunteers Press Toward the 'Gold' Beijing Olympic Law Targets Car Pollution Beijing Tackles Olympic Traffic Problem China Minds Its Manners for '08 Games But Chen's not here to win gold; he's here to promote a green China. "I've been collecting garbage on the streets, and teaching people to do the same. I do this to show people that all the Chinese people want civilized and harmonious games," Guanming said. He's biked through 233 cities in China, and says the country is improving - especially Beijing. Guanming said, "They have gotten rid of a lot of uncivilized behavior, and now things are improving regarding traffic control, environmental pollution, and showing respect for the elderly." Beijing has more than 400,000 official volunteers throughout the city, and thousands more have traveled from across China to serve their country at these Olympic Games. "The Olympics is a great opportunity," exclaimed one volunteer. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime, so I'm so glad I have the chance to use my time and energy at the Beijing Olympic Games." A much smaller group of 300 foreign volunteers are also catching Olympic fever. "I want to see how a city changed, and how the athletes change going from international competition to the Olympic Games, so I'm just excited to catch the Olympic spirit," one volunteer said. But even for an official volunteer, cultural differences can be difficult. "There are a lot less English speakers here than I've anticipated," another volunteer said. "The saving grace of the Olympics here is the Beijing people are so welcoming." From Homeless to Helpers One group of students came to help foreign tourists at the Olympics. They talk to people from all over the world, since they speak five languages- Spanish, English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. One student, Jenny, said, "I feel very happy because I like to help out and I like to talk with foreigners because they are so nice; I like helping out… foreigners." This is the first Beijing trip for Jenny and her classmates. Four years ago, their lives were dramatically different - they were living on the streets. "We were street kids, we would pick up garbage on the street. We were beggars, actually. Our life was very poor," Vivian said. Their teacher, Paul Qin, says that the Olympics motivated him to leave his job in Hong Kong, so they could help foreign visitors at the games. "I want to participate in this event, and that's why I spent the last five years, spent my own money to get them here today," Qin said. For many of them, the Olympics is only the beginning of a lifetime of service. After the Games, Paul's students will travel to Sichuan Province. This time, instead of helping foreigners, they'll be teaching English to people who were orphaned or seriously injured after last May's earthquake.


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