Chinese-speaking volunteers prevalent at upcoming Winter Olympics

15:51, December 15, 2009      

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Organizers of the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics said Monday Chinese-speaking volunteers will be well represented at the February Games as they accounted for about 12 percent of all the applications received.

Speaking on the first day of staff and volunteer accreditation for the February 12-28 Olympiad, Allen Vanson, VANOC's vice president of workforce operations and integration, said applications from about 5,000 Mandarin speakers and about 4,000 Cantonese speakers were received.

While there were no figures available on how many Canadians of Chinese descent would be accepted to volunteer, from the total pool of 75,000 who had applied for the Games and the March Paralympics, about 25,000 people will be accepted.

"We have been very fortunate from a volunteer recruitment prospective," Vanson said. "We've had applications from more than130 countries. Approximately 90 percent of those applicants have come from Canada, with the vast majority from British Columbia."

As of Monday, about 23,000 people had been accepted as Games volunteers, but organizers said they were looking for more in some key positions. Some involved languages but many were in a variety of general specialized roles.

About 750 volunteers were still needed in the area near Whistler, the mountain resort 90 minutes northeast of Vancouver, which will host the Nordic sports, Alpine skiing and sliding.

Organizers were also targeting about 15 percent of volunteers to be fully bilingual in Canada's two official languages, French and English.

In Metro Vancouver, however, an area with more than 300,000 Chinese immigrants, Cantonese is more prevalent than French with Mandarin increasingly on the rise.

"We have done an active call to action to the volunteer community," Vanson said. "We have a number of functions that provide certain services to our national Olympic committees or Olympic family systems that require certain languages. So we have reached out to those communities to ask those volunteers that they step forward for Games times and deliver those services."

"We're in very good position in terms of delivering all those language services, be it interpretation or general assistance in terms of language."

Volunteers coming into the accreditation centre on Monday were also issued their uniform. The "wave blue" outfit, worth about 700Canadian dollars, comprises seven pieces in a jacket, vest, pants, hat, tote bag and two long-sleeve shirts. The main pieces were all manufactured in China.

About 30,000 of the uniforms provided by the Hudson's Bay Company, Canada's oldest retailer, will be distributed before the Games.

Trying on his uniform for size, Vancouver resident Larry Hoe, an ethnic Chinese who will serve as volunteer driver during the Games, said he was looking forward to helping visitors.

The 57-year-old retired teacher speaks some Cantonese and Mandarin. "My Cantonese and Mandarin are not that great, but if I can help them in my broken Chinese I will," he said with a laugh.

"I love people and this (driver's job) sounded interesting. I didn't want to be stuck in one spot. I would love to go from venue to venue and the position I have is perfect. I want to welcome people from all over. It is so much fun just to meet them. This is just a learning experience for me.

"The uniform looks great. It's a good representation for BC and Canada. Both this uniform and the memory of these Games are great keepsakes. I'm not passionate enough about this yet, but I'm getting there."

Source: Xinhua
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