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Monday, 22 November 2010

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Lankan sportsmen and women return

Some of the Sri Lanka sportsmen and women who have already completed their events will return home from today. But don't be surprised if any Sri Lanka sportsman or woman writes their names in a few crooked Chinese characters when you request an autograph on their return to Colombo after the Guangzhou Asian Games.

Even the majority members of the 143-member Sri Lanka contingent who are still here, competing in their respective disciplines, have a good volume of fans. Several of them write a word or two in Chinese when local fans request them to autograph. That is because of some basic Chinese they have mastered during their stay at the Athletes Village.

Learning how to write their names in Chinese calligraphy has become a popular activity not only for Sri Lankans but also for thousands of other competitors from 44 nations across Asia who now resides at the Athletes' Village. Dozens of foreigners are packing the Chinese Study Centre daily to gather some quick knowledge of the local language.

Chinese teachers

Several Sri Lankan sportsmen and women too were seen at the centre, trying to make the best use of the facility and learn a few Chinese characters. In return, they wrote a few words in Sinhalese and gifted their first Chinese teachers.

There is a staff of over 25 who provide instruction in calligraphy, tea ceremony and guzheng (a Chinese zither), according to Li Rongsen, a student at Guangzhou City Polytechnic who serves as a calligraphy teacher. "It's very popular among touring athletes. Several groups of foreigners come here with great interest in learning how to write their names in Chinese," he said.

Abdullah Alkhaiyat, an athlete from Kuwait, carefully concentrated on each stroke of ink on the rice paper, oblivious to a reporter's camera on his face. After 15 minutes of copying Li's penmanship, Abdullah could finally relax and admire his effort. "My teacher said I did very well, and I am proud of my writing," he said.

Most athletes are fascinated with calligraphy and Chinese traditional culture, and are keen to have a copy of their names in Chinese, written all by themselves, to take back home. Most of them are keen to take home the written papers of their first Chinese lessons when they return home after the Games. "It was a new experience and totally different from my language. I will take it back home to show it to my family and friends," a Pakistani athlete said.

Popular

Learning to write "wo ai ni," which means "I love you" in Chinese, is also very popular, said Zou Nana, a student volunteer from Sun Yat-sen University.

He went on to describe why "Wo ai ni" is the most popular sentence to be written in Chinese by the touring athletes. "Most of the athletes here for the Asian Games are youth. There young guys may be in a relationship. As we know, saying 'I love you' in different languages is a modern way to show love, and Chinese is the most popular choice here," said Zou. Perhaps, Sri Lankan competitors, on their return home, may say "wo ai ni" to their loved ones.

Characters

With Chinese characters among the most stylish tattoo patterns all over the world, some athletes have asked Zou to decorate their skin with a few strokes from the brush pen."It's interesting and crazy. A Pakistani youngster came here yesterday and asked me to write 'I love you Pakistan' in Chinese on his arm. After two days, he came in again. It's amazing that the characters were still on his skin - mottled, but clear enough to read. I don't know how he managed that," he shared his experience.

While Alkhaiyat was learning how to hold the brush, his teammate, Fahed Hasan, showed great interest in the tea ceremony. "I know Chinese tea is very famous around the world, but I haven't witnessed the unique ceremony before drinking it. And I am curious about the ancient Chinese musical instrument, the guzheng. If I have more time, I would like to learn how to play it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Games organizers have taken all possible steps to maintain strict quality control on food supplied to members of the Asian Games family, be it athletes, officials, OCA guests or media personalities. More importantly, the organizers have taken 100% precautions to make sure that the food or medicines supplied to the competitors do not contain substances of banned steroids.

All meat supplied to the 16th Asian Games venues has passed strict food quality tests to ensure it is free of clenbuterol, a prohibited anabolic agent that can have a short-term stimulant effect, Guangzhou's food and drug administration said.

The controls put in place to monitor the presence in the food have also been strengthened to minimise the risk of accidental or deliberate doping, according to Lin Yongsheng, Deputy Director of the Administration. The meat suppliers for the Asian Games, which also served the 2008 Beijing Olympics, have been selected in a strict manner.

Examinations

Food science experts have been sent to make on-site examinations and take sample tests, while the transportation and storage of the meat has been carefully supervised. Every batch of the meat at the Games' venues had been tested.

The canned herbal tea served at the various competition venues is also stimulant-free and safe for athletes to drink, he said. Real-name registration is required for buying and selling drugs in Guangzhou that are on the list of banned stimulants, according to Lin.

A total of 226 on-site teams have been working around the clock to keep tabs on the food suppliers and conduct real-time tests on the food and its delivery. Meanwhile, 28 drills have been carried out over the past three months to prepare for contingencies.

Forty hotels have been designated and 345 food and raw materials enterprises chosen to serve people attending the Games. About 175 different drugs and 338 kinds of medical supplies are available for athletes. Since November 5, over 500 tons of food and about 2,500 tons of soft drinks have been supplied to the Asian Games Town, venue workers and volunteers and spectators. Some 99.08 percent of the food at the venues passed the 2,030 sample tests conducted at catering firms, he said

Inspection

According to Lin, "All the food and raw materials cannot be supplied to the people attending the Asian Games until sampling inspection is qualified by the testing department of the Guangzhou Municipal Government and cannot be supplied to the athletes until they are qualified lot-by-lot to be stimulant-free. Up to now, there have been no abnormal in the examination, delivery, acceptance check and escort of the food and raw materials for the Asian Games.

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