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China Exclusive: 74-year-old ex-diplomat becomes volunteer for Shanghai World Expo

2010-04-02 08:58 BJT

Special Report: Shanghai World Expo 2010 |

SHANGHAI, April 1 (Xinhua) -- A 74-year-old ex-diplomat has become the most senior volunteer for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo due to start on May 1.

Once a Chinese diplomat working in Sweden, Hou Qingshan is an expert on international communication. He has been longing to devote his talents to the 184-day cultural event since the moment Shanghai won the bid for the World Expo 2010 eight years ago.

Showing a newspaper dated Dec. 4, 2002, the day after Shanghai's triumph, Hou told Xinhua that he immediately wanted to do all he could to help but worried about his health, though he knew his ability to speak both English and Swedish fluently would be useful.

Hou applied to be an Expo volunteer, but then worried about the tough selection process and training.

However, Hou quickly learned what was required and passed the written test, and then was invited for an interview.

The ex-diplomat said he was quite anxious before the interview.

"I went there just to find more than 2,000 people were to be interviewed. I felt a bit downhearted at that time since my age probably put me at a disadvantage," said Hou.

But his age didn't matter as his language skills gave him the edge over others, not to mention his experience in international communication and his passion to help, of course.

Having passed the written test and interview, Hou prepared for the physical test to be completed in groups, including crossing a wire fence.

"I thought I could be a drag on the whole group," said Hou.

He tried to pass through the bottom gap of the wire fence, but failed after several attempts. At last, the team came up with the idea of holding Hou in the air and passing him through the fence.

"I didn't dare to move a bit, I was very nervous and excited," he said.

Taking a step by step approach, Hou has finally become an Expo volunteer in a management position at the Expo site.

On hearing the news, Swedish consul general in Shanghai, Bengt Johansson, invited Hou to his residence in Shanghai. Johansson sent Hou a book written by him as a gift. And, the Swedish Pavilion Director of Shanghai Expo Annika Rembe invited Hou to visit the pavilion during the event.

When they took a picture, Johansson asked Hou to stand in the middle, Hou recalled.

"I hadn't worked as a diplomat for decades and didn't know Mr. Johansson before, it's because I am a senior Expo volunteer that I received such respect," said Hou.

Hou told Xinhua that "he will help the young volunteers with skills for inter-cultural communication with people from abroad."

Editor: Jin Lin | Source: Xinhua