In an unprecedented gesture of gratitude, three newly-elected members of the Athletes' Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented flower bouquets to 12 volunteers of the Beijing Olympics at the Games' closing ceremony in the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, in north Beijing on Sunday night.
The 12 represented the 70,000-strong volunteers working at the Games facilities, but also some 1.4 million others who helped the Games organizers in security, transport, information and lodging services.
Among the representatives, one was from a foreign country, two from Hong Kong and the rest from the Chinese mainland.
Gwacham-Anisiobi Ifeoma Onyinye from Nigeria acted as a representative of volunteers from foreign countries. She came to Beijing to learn Chinese in August 2006 at the Beijing Language and Culture University.
Onyinye has worked as a volunteer at the Beijing Capital International Airport to offer information and help to passengers. "The Beijing Olympics has provided chances to me and enabled me to make lots of friends," said Onyinye on Sunday.
Another striking representative of the volunteers was Li Changliang who had worked for the government of Mapo town in Shunyi district of Beijing. During the Beijing Olympics, he was in charge of logistics of 37,000 urban volunteers in Shunyi.
The work kept Li very busy and he has had to often burn the night oil since April. His three-year-old son has not saw him for a whole month.
These volunteers, many of whom are trained to be engineers, journalists or doctors, are doing a wide variety of temporary jobs created by the Games: running errands and distributing games results, conducting security checks, driving golf carts, housekeeping at athletes and media villages, or simply standing there and greeting everyone.
Close as they are to the Games, few of these volunteers can sit back and enjoy the competition. Even the lucky ones working at the competition venues may not witness all the historic moments.
With great efforts and dedication of the smiling young men and women, Beijing has actually looked younger during the Olympic Games. The volunteers won the people's sincere hail and applause.
IOC President Jacques Rogge said in his speech at the closing ceremony,"Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers.
"Let us pay tribute to all those who have participated in the Games! Let us thank the media and all the staff who have worked so hard to make the Games such a great event!" said Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games, in his speech in the National Stadium.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, honorary president of the IOC spoke highly of the volunteers' contribution to the Games and deemed their hard work as an important component of successful Olympic Games, when he met with 130 Chinese students who were on their Olympic tour here early this month.
In response, the volunteers felt it was a great honor to make contributions for the Beijing Olympics.
"The thanks of Liu Qi and Jacques Rogge are not for the a small group of volunteers but for us all. I think our efforts have been recognized and hailed by the people. For myself, I learned from the experience during the Games on how to help others and serve our country," said Wang Anqi from the Peking University.
Wang has been busy with distributing speeches from Rogge and had no time to watch the closing ceremony, although he was just in the National Stadium.