Beijingers learn how to cheer for the Olympics
By Vivi Lin, Reuters
January 31, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
BEIJING -- On the top floor of the Yansha Friendship Shopping Centre in Beijing, Huang Kuoshan and 49 of his colleagues are waiting to be sworn in to the Beijing Workers' Civilization Cheerleading Squad.
With the Beijing Olympic venues all but ready and the US$40 billion upgrade of the city's infrastructure nearing completion, it is part of a drive by city authorities to ensure bad manners do not mar the Aug. 8-24 Games.
Gathered in an old room draped with red curtains where Communist Party meetings are usually held, the shop employees, clad in their company-issue tracksuits, raise their right fists in the air and repeat an oath.
"I swear I'm an honorable member of the worker's unit cheerleaders for the Beijing Olympic Games," they intone.
"I will promote the Olympic spirit, learn Olympic knowledge, spread Olympic etiquette, serve warmly, protect the environment and follow regulations," they added. "I'll cheer for the athletes, glory for the country and applaud the Olympics."
Beijing's campaigns against spitting, littering and queue-jumping have had much publicity, but there is also concern that swearing, lack of familiarity with the rules of sport and overly partisan home crowds might also prove an embarrassment.
For Huang, the three hour classes on the basics of volleyball and how to cheer properly are worth it for the chance to watch this year's Olympics on the sidelines as a spectator.
"It's pretty fun, but I also feel a sense of duty to support our teams and our country," the 32-year-old told Reuters.
Huang and his colleagues were selected out of over 3,000 workers of the Yansha Group, a state-owned enterprise. More than 100,000 workers in the city are receiving training.
Besides going over the basic rules of volleyball, referee Lu Weiping lectures the class about possible scenarios where audience participation may be required.
"It's very possible that balls will bounce out of court and I hope everyone will pass the balls back to the ball boys and girls," Lu tells his audience.