Beijing transfers the 2008 Beijing Olympics Volunteer Legacy to the 2011 Kazakhstan Asian Winter Games

16 Nov 2010

Astana, Kazakhstan – Beijing, China 
16 November 2010

The 7th Winter Asian Games will start next 30th January and Kazakhstan is warming up to host this special event with the help of about 3,500 volunteers. With the rich legacy of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Volunteer work, China has precious experiences to share on volunteer management and promotion of volunteerism through large-scale events. After passing the baton to the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games Volunteers, Beijing did not miss this new chance to transfer its unique legacy to other cities. Under the UNV and UNDP supported "Strengthening Volunteerism for development through the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games" project (in short, Olympic Volunteer Project), Prof. Zhang Xiaohong, Associate Professor at China Agricultural University and researcher at Beijing Volunteer Federation, and Fiammetta Mancini, UN Volunteer Partnerships Coordinator for the Olympic Volunteer Project, strengthened cooperation with Kazakhstan on a 3-day mission to Astana, where they participated as speakers to a Volunteer Training Camp, met with university student volunteers and were interviewed by Astana TV.

Civic Alliance is the national network of over 400 NGOs in charge of the Winter Asian Games volunteer training, together with the Games Organizing Committee, in particular on the subjects of stress management and cultural adaptation. Civic Alliance working jointly with UNV and UNDP Kazakhstan, organized the 2 and a half day Volunteer Camp in Borovoye, nearby Astana, to build capacity of about 40 volunteer organizations coming from different parts of the country and encourage participation of 10 core volunteers who will manage volunteer teams for the Games in Astana and Almaty. Prof. Zhang, one of the Chinese Beijing Olympics Expert Roster’s experts, and Ms. Mancini brought in the Chinese experience by presenting the main features of the Beijing Olympic Volunteer Programme, the impact of the Olympics on volunteerism and the work carried out by the Olympic Volunteer Project to support the programme and promote volunteerism for development through the Games.

Prof. Zhang showed a brief introductory film about the Beijing Olympic Volunteers and explained the role volunteers played and how they were trained, motivated and recognized. She then gave a set of Olympic bracelets to the responsible staff of Civic Alliance as a souvenir and example of how the Olympic Volunteer identity was built. Ms. Mancini's presentation focused on the link between big events and volunteerism for development and highlighted that event volunteers can become ambassadors of the volunteer spirit as well as of volunteerism for disadvantaged groups, the environment and the MDGs. She showed the Beijing map with environmental tips illustrated in cartoon style which was distributed to visitors by the Beijing Olympic Volunteers. 

“At what age do Chinese people start volunteering?” - The participants were eager to learn about China and were very active in asking questions about volunteerism there. In a Q&A session, Prof. Zhang and Ms. Mancini talked more about volunteerism in the countryside, volunteering for disabled people, how the Olympic volunteer enthusiasm spread outside Beijing and how it was retained after the Games. “Experience, Value, Impact - A research report on the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Paralympics”, among the authors of which is Prof. Zhang herself, was presented to Civic Alliance as a source of further information.

A meeting with university student volunteers from the Foreign Language University was another opportunity to share the Olympic experience. Here the students, registered as Winter Asian Games volunteers, asked their questions in English and even in Chinese. During an interview for Astana TV, Prof. Zhang and Ms. Mancini, highlighted the contribution of volunteers in large-scale events like the OSCE Summit to be held in Astana on 1-2 December and the Winter Asian Games as well as their contribution to society at large. Practical suggestions were put forward to Civic Alliance and UNV Kazakhstan on volunteer motivation, visibility and other challenges faced in volunteer management. This was a first step of South-South cooperation on volunteerism between China and Kazakhstan. There will certainly be more chances ahead, for the forthcoming Winter Asian Games and similar occasions.

The project ‘Strengthening Volunteerism for Development through the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ was launched in July 2007 as a partnership between the Beijing Youth League, Beijing Volunteer Federation, China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges, United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Volunteers programme. Its overall goal is to harness the enthusiasm towards volunteering boosted by the Beijing Olympics in order to promote volunteerism as an effective means towards development. One of the project components is aimed at documenting and transferring the Beijing Olympics Volunteer Legacy to other cities in China and in the world.