Feature: "Grandpa Donald", tutor of Olympic volunteers

2008-07-28 08:36:54 GMT       2008-07-28 16:36:54 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

By Tai Beiping

BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Media Veteran Donald James Hook, one of the 31 foreign consultants invited to Beijing's Olympic venues, spent a tiring day on Monday at the Fencing Hall tutoring volunteers how to better serve foreign reporters.

The retired Australian journalist arrived in China on July 16, his 73rd birthday. He currently acts as assistant to the venue's media manager and is nicknamed by some volunteers as "Grandpa Donald".

"The general situation is quite good. The young volunteers work very hard and they are passionate," said Hook after working for over one week at the Fencing Hall, venue for the Olympic Fencing and Modern Pentathlon events.

However, "Grandpa Donald" pointed out that the volunteers need to be more "flexible" while dealing with foreign reporters.

"The volunteers need passion in their work, but I told them never to interrupt the journalists while they are working.

"Reporters battle to meet their deadlines and could be annoyed if the volunteers initiate a conversation with them while they are writing," said Hook, who have worked as a reporter in many countries and participated in media-related work at the previous two Olympic Games.

"The volunteers, mostly young and inexperienced students, must also be aware of the differences in the Chinese and Westerners' ways of thinking," he added.

"Grandpa Donald" is one of the 31 foreign consultants invited to work at the competition venues during the Beijing Olympics, as the grand event will attract around 21,000 media workers, mostly from outside China.

These consultants will help adapt the Chinese staff at these venues for a multinational working environment, and offer advice on media-related issues.

For the volunteers, what "Grandpa Donald" can teach is not only the technical know-how of communicating with foreigners, but also details that the youngsters might miss out, said Liu Zhihai, who is responsible for running the Fencing Hall's media workroom.

"Grandpa Donald always warns us the worst that could happen, like fire emergency, and always remind us to keep the exit doors open," said Liu.

"This could be extremely useful in such a grand and complicated event," he added.

For the volunteers, "Grandpa Donald" also offers an opportunity for them to speak English, according to Liu.

He said communications with "Grandpa Donald" can help build up confidence for the student volunteers, many of whom have good knowledge of written English but lack chances to speak out to foreigners.

With only 11 days to go, both the volunteers and foreign consultants like "Grandpa Donald" are working hard for final preparations.

"I tell them to take a rest whenever possible, the work is really hard. Some volunteers will watch the opening ceremony on TV till late night, but they have to get up early the next day for work," "Grandpa Donald" said in a mood of a real kind grandpa.

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