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Thousands of Volunteers Ready to Help Before Olympics

Nearly 20,000 volunteers have been working in 200 street stalls here since the beginning of this month, providing information, emergency aid and translation services for people from around the world in the run-up to the Olympics.

In August, the number of volunteers would be 20 times higher in 550 such stalls, most of which are located near Olympic venues, tourist sites and traffic hubs.

"Go straight ahead for 10 meters, take the Number Five bus and get off at the Tian'anmen East station," Nicolas Lam, a tourist from Luxembourg, was told by a girl in a blue T-shirt after he asked the way to Tian'anmen Square.

The girl, Cheng Bocong, 21, a junior student at Beijing Agriculture College, was working at a stall in Niujie, southwest Beijing, a largely Muslim neighborhood.

In the 12 square meter blue cube, decorated with Olympic and Paralympic signs, Cheng and her seven colleagues were handing out leaflets about the Olympic venues and subway lines to passers-by.

The station, which is open seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, also provides English and Arabic language service for foreign tourists.

"If you are slightly injured or suffer a heat stroke, we have pills for a simple treatment," said Zhang Yiwu, a volunteer from the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, at a service station in Changchunjie Street, Xuanwu District.

"Directly serving the Olympics is a once in a lifetime experience. I'm ready to help."

Volunteers in Guijie Street, a place famous for its many cuisines, in Dongcheng District, have made a map showing the specialties of more than 90 restaurants nearby.

Besides the Chinese volunteers, some 22,000 overseas Olympic volunteers will come to China for the Games. They'll work at the Main Press Center or the International Broadcast Center or help with particular sports such as tennis and wrestling.

(Xinhua News Agency July 12, 2008)

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