Nearly 2,000 volunteers are gearing up for the trial operation and opening ceremony of the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 in Beijing. They will play a range of roles, from translation to giving directions and finding logistical loopholes - even simulating visitors' experiences.
The volunteers comprise the first group of the total 20,000 volunteers to be enlisted during the expo, which is set to run from April 29 to Oct 7 in Beijing, according to Dai Bin, head of the volunteer department of the expo's coordination bureau.
The opening ceremony will take place on April 28 at the Guirui Theater, the butterfly-shaped stadium in the 503-hectare expo park in Yanqing district. Multiple rehearsals and internal testing of the entire site will be rolled out with the help of the volunteers, he said.
"Most volunteers are college students majoring in agriculture, forestry, telecommunications, foreign languages and media, and the majority have had previous volunteer experience," Dai said.
"Together with expo workers, the volunteers will conduct trial runs to locate and fix possible flaws before the expo officially kicks off," he said, adding that they will also step in to assist with guiding, first aid and live broadcasting.
"Though English will dominate most of our translation services, we have also taken in volunteers fluent in eight other foreign languages, including Russian, French, Spanish and Arabic, to accommodate the needs of more international tourists," he said.
Since the recruitment drive for expo volunteers was launched in January, more than 10,000 applications have been received via face-to-face consultations and by phone, and about 15,000 applicants have signed up online, the bureau said. Most online application portals will remain open until late September.
To ensure that successful applicants - mostly college students with homework and classes - will receive appropriate and efficient training, Dai said, technology has been used to cut down on the number of large gatherings.
"We have adopted short videos and cartoon clips, along with the conventional method of presenting information in slides and text to prepare our teams," Dai said.
Dong Jinhang, a senior majoring in ornamental horticulture at Beijing Forestry University, will begin a two-week volunteer stint at the expo later this month. She appreciated the combination of offline sessions and digital tutorials for training.
"I was able to meet and connect with experienced volunteers who shared valuable, real-life experience with us," she said. "Meanwhile, I can always watch the training videos during my leisure time to reinforce my memory and basic knowledge of the venues and exhibitions."
Experienced volunteer Chen Wenting, 44, from Zhangjiakou in Hebei province, said, "I am now fully prepared to channel my enthusiasm into the work to ensure the smooth operation of the international event."