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The Olympic spirit
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By Rebecca White

I have the privilege as a rising college senior of living in Beijing for the next two months as an American volunteer journalist for the Olympics. I knew going into the trip that this particular set of Olympic Games would be different from others, if for no other reason than the host nation. I had no idea that within two days of my arrival I would get such a clear sense of why this would be the case.

I have rarely seen a country filled with people of such commitment and energy as China, particularly when it comes to making the Olympic Games a success. This has overflowed into a deep appreciation of my role as a volunteer from the Chinese people.

I have served in many areas, including hospital wings, community centers, news stations and nursing homes. In most situations, people within those organizations appreciated my efforts, but those who knew of my service outside of those contexts were not particularly impressed.

This is not the case in China. Anytime I wear my credentials as a volunteer, anytime I wear my uniform or mention that I am offering my time and energy as a volunteer for the Olympics, I receive immediate expressions of gratitude.

For example, I recently traveled with a group of fellow student journalists from America to Xi'an. Our English speaking tour guide had just returned from another trip. Understandably tired, she was not initially enthused in leading another group -- until she heard that we were all female volunteers for the Olympics. Touched by our willingness to serve her country, she repeatedly said, "Thank you for volunteering. I like volunteers. You are making our country better by being here." She even bought us drinks and took pictures of our group for her scrapbook.

Her attitude is mirrored by countless people I have met since living here. There is tremendous respect given to anyone, Chinese as well as those from around the world, who dedicate time to making the Games a success. Even a young college girl from North Carolina.

This attitude shows me more than anything what a great honor China has taken in hosting the 2008 Olympics and why it is an honor for me to serve them on behalf of the world community.

(china.org.cn July 20, 2008)


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