Date of this Version
July 30, 2008 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
I have just returned from five days in the earthquake disaster zone in Sichuan province, where I was a member of the “People’s Olympic Education Promotion Team” that visited Deyang city to conduct “Youth Olympic Games Re-enactments” at six local primary and secondary schools. There I realized that for the people we encountered, The Torch is a sacred object. I call it The Torch because that is what they called it – 火炬 – as if there were only one, and no further adjectives were necessary.
The project expressed the mission of Donnie Pei, a professor at the Capital Institute of Physical Education and Zhou Chenguang, a primary school p.e. teacher, to take the Olympics to the grassroots (discussed in my previous posting). Pei could not come with us, so our team leader was Zhou. The member who attracted the most attention everywhere was Sun Yiyong, songwriter and a torchbearer during the Inner Mongolia torch relay, who was called simply The Torchbearer （火炬手）。 The other members, who paled next to his luminance, consisted of Wu Ji’an, China’s “King of Games,” who creates and collects games and teaches them to schoolchildren and teachers nationwide; Zhou’s son Bowen; myself; and three support staff. We came from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Deyang and were self-funded but for the “soft implements” (discus, javelin, hammer, hurdles, and epees made out of flexible packing foam) funded by the Haidian District government in Beijing. Thus, we were a determined “people’s” （民间）group and not an “official” （官方）group. As Zhou put it to the local city officials, we were the three “have nots”: have no organization, no discipline, and no funding. Such a group had probably never been seen in the area before in this form, although the earthquake relief effort had accustomed the locals both to NGOs and to roaming foreigners.