Volunteers Get Fine-tooth Training

Everything is taken into account when training Olympic volunteers, right down to the ring tones on their mobile phones.

Rap songs, for example, are not recommended, in case they offend certain visitors.

While previous Games, for example the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, employed professional service providers, Beijing has recruited 20,000 young volunteers, mostly university students, to serve the 7 million spectators.

"Our volunteers are young and frequently inexperienced, but we tell them their best training is that of trial and error on the frontline," Zhang Zhenliang, deputy director of BOCOG's volunteers department, said.

The frontline comprises the 42 test events runs that ended this June.

Small skirmishes broke out during the first round of trial-runs last August at the gate to the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, when spectators were not allowed to bring in their cameras. Families, unable to obtain tickets, also wandered aimlessly outside competition venues owing to delayed ticketing information updates.

"Our mind often goes blank when faced with a problem for which we are unprepared," Gan Li, an Olympic volunteer, said.

"The first job of a volunteer is to provide visitors with accurate and helpful information," Huang Keying, BOCOG spectator services supervisor, said. "That's why social communication skills are so crucial.

"We knew the lack of social experience among our young volunteers was a problem," she added. "But the young volunteers have displayed immense learning capacity and endless enthusiasm in both training and test events."

They have rapidly amassed spectator service know-how, with the help of the concisely classified tips in the volunteer department's newly published spectator guide, as well as information hotlines.

The volunteers' handbook also helps them to answer all sorts of questions.

"We think, though, that sincerity is most important of all," Huang, who has trained volunteers nationwide, said.

(China Daily July 23, 2008)

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