Charles Carter Lee, Chef de Mission of the 2008 US Olympic Team, speaks fluent Mandarin. He says being able to speak Chinese has helped him to bridge the cultural gap between China and the United States.
He spent two years studying Chinese at Taiwan National Normal University from 1972 to 1974. Afterwards, he kept up his knowledge of the language through self-study.
"I had my own method of learning Chinese–I used to read fairy tales printed in both simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin," Lee told China.org.cn, speaking, of course, in Chinese.
This is not the first time Lee has worked for the Olympic Games. In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) sent him to Beijing as an envoy to persuade China to attend the 1984 Olympics, after the Soviet Union announced a boycott. Lee led a LAOOC delegation to China in May 1984 for talks that concluded with China signing a written agreement to participate in the Games.
Charles Carter Lee, Chef de Mission of the 2008 US Olympic Team, speaks fluent Mandarin.
Lee's role this time is to lead American athletes taking part in the Beijing Olympic Games. "We taught our athletes local etiquette and some simple Chinese phrases, like, 'how are you?' and 'thanks', before sending them to China," said Lee. "We told them not to send clocks as gifts when dining with Chinese friends and not to wear green hats."
According to Lee, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) has done a great job. "Both staff members and volunteers are so friendly. We have been really impressed," said Lee.
A former judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Lee has delivered lectures on the California legal system to many Chinese audiences, using both English and Chinese. He has been married for 30 years to his wife Miranda, a former Hong Kong resident.
(China.org.cn by Wu Jin August 21, 2008)