By Tabitha Messick
Spectators squeal with delight and rush to find their cameras when the Paralympic mascots come waddling out to the floor. Everyone loves colorful cow Fu Niu Lele, the Paralympic mascot, who entertains crowds at halftimes and breaks at Olympic venues.
But who are the people inside those costumes?
The people inside the costumes are none other than the blue shirted volunteers. The volunteers rotate daily and one of their duties is to be a mascot.
Volunteers Wu Zhicheng, Sun Dayong, Duan Bing Xu and Ju Yang, who are stationed at the Beijing Science and Technology Gymnasium said it is a favorite part of their job.
"We feel happy and excited to see all the smiling faces in the crowd," said Sun Dayong, a volunteer from Liao Ning Province.
They also wore the Fuwa costumes during the Olympics games and took pictures with spectators.
"To serve the spectators is our honor," said Dayong.
Preparation for mascots took place during regular volunteer training. However the volunteers learn most from real experience as they get more comfortable in front of the crowds.
"Sometimes I even practice dancing and training by myself," said Wu Zhicheng, a volunteer from Hunan province.
The suit is so large that the volunteers can only see out of the nose of Fu Nui LeLe's head. It could be extremely hot to wear the suit, but there is an air conditioning unit inside that helps them keep cool.
Though sometimes hard to walk and dance because of the bulkiness of their attire, volunteers have learned how to maneuver well. The volunteers revealed that it only takes 1-2 minutes to put the costume on.
"We get pretty skilled at it," Dayong said.
Ju Yang, volunteer supervisor at the USTB gymnasium, said one time they made one of the mascots fall during practice because they wanted to know how difficult it would be to get up in the costume.
"We just pushed him over," Yang said, laughing.
This commitment to serve is why the volunteers have been an integral part of the successful execution of the Games. Dayong said the work has been very tiring but it has been one of his best experiences. Zhicheng, Dayong and Bing Xu plan to stay in Beijing to continue their education at the end of the Paralympic Games.
The Paralympic mascot is the friendly cow, Fu Niu Lele, inspired by the farming of ancient Chinese civilization. The cow is a symbol of the unrelenting spirit of athletes with a disability in being the best they can be.
The Olympic mascots are the Fuwa, their colors like the five Olympic Rings, and their names a combination of "Beijing Welcomes You" (BeiBei, JingJing, HuanHuan, YingYing and NiNi).
(China.org.cn September 14, 2008)