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Stories behind the Universiade's torch relay launch ceremony

MAY . 07 2011

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92 years ago, young people from PKU kindled the light of patriotism and democracy on May 4, initiating the May Fourth Movement that enlightened the entire country. Nearly a century later on May 4, 2011, another torch was ignited here, this time for the 26th Summer Universiade, marking the 100-day countdown to the opening of International University Sports Federation’s (FISU) main event.  



Peking University, May 6, 2011: Shenzhen Universiade torch relay launching ceremony and the first stop relay activity kicked off at Peking University (PKU) on May 4. The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will be hosting the 26th Summer Universiade from August 12 to 23, 10 years after Beijing held the 21st event in 2001.




 At the presence of hundreds of students and teaching staff, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang lit the main torch and declared the start of the torch relay. "I declare the start of the torch relay for the 26th Summer Universiade," Li said after handing the torch to the first relay runner, Xing Yan'an, a Peking University postgraduate who was a former member of China's national athletic team. 




Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang ('82, PKU Law Department) 


A total of 54 torchbearers, mostly enrolled PKU students and teaching staff representatives, took part in a 3.1 km relay around PKU, passing landmarks such as Peking University Library and the Memorial of Revitalization of the Chinese Nation on the way. Others were celebrities, including movie star Jackie Chan, former Olympic champion Deng Yaping, and renowned anchor Bai Yansong.


Stefan Bergh, vice president of FISU, said the Shenzhen Universiade will make history. "I am sure we will witness some extraordinary things in August. First of all, the largest number of participants. Secondly, the sports facilities built there will be taken to a new level of standards. Thirdly, I am sure the level of organization will be superb," said Stefan Bergh. 

The Universide is all about university students, and in a sense, it is their own Olympics.



Jackie Chan (R) 


There was no lack of illustrious PKU students during this year’s fire torch relay. Ma Qingyuan, a graduate student from the Department of History, was the fifth torch bearer, who suffered from serious disease and underwent an amputation surgery. His classmates and friends came early to witness this moment. “I treat the relay seriously because it is important to maintain a good image especially when so many people are watching the event," said Ma. When being asked if there were any difficulties in bearing the torch, he confessed that he was anxious at the beginning, "My teachers encouraged me to try, and it turned out to be OK." Ma's preceding torchbearer was Jackie Chan, the famous movies star. Ma was very excited about meeting Jackie Chan in person, "I am a big fan of him, and he's kind of a leading model. I really appreciated this opportunity." Also, Ma mentioned that Jackie Chan's song "Nan'er dang ziqang" (meaning "be a man, be strong") inspired him to fight against the misfortune and disease.



The first torch bearer, PKU student Xing Yan'an


PKU students Gao Ming and Ma Qingyuan


Wenni (R), an international student at PKU


Zhao Xue, a Class of 2012 (’12) student from the School of Government said," This is my first time as a torch bearer. Watching the flames of the torch gives me unspeakable hope. This hope is important to our athletes." "It was my honor to bear the torch," The first torch bearer Xing Yan'an recalled his experience, "Some of my friends told me to run not as fast as at my regular speed so that I could extend the wonderful time. But even though I ran slowly, time slipped by so fast. How I wish I could run much longer with the torch! " Another torchbearer Fan Jingyi ('12) received the flame from Professor Hai Wen, vice president of PKU. Fan's 60-meter torch journey was filled with her friends’ cheers.


The torch relay was held on May 4, China's Youth Day, which is as also exactly the time to celebrate the youth and energy of youths. Zhao Xue said: “Being at PKU on May 4 on this special occasion makes me feel young."


For Ma Qingyuan, "May 4 is a day for college students, while the Universiade is a sports event for the students. The purposes of both events coincide. And the torch relay also symbolizes passing on the spirit of May Forth Movement.” 


“I think the Universiade is more than just a sports event to most students, it also offers an opportunity to inspire the passion of students towards sports," said Gao. 



The Glory of Volunteering

Diligently working and sticking to their posts on the torch relay day were the PKU student volunteers.


On May 3, 80 "defense students" and 118 volunteers participated in a full day rehearsal. "We assembled at 8:30 in the morning outside the PKU Hall and then we were sent to different locations where the torch should be passed from one torchbearer to the next," said volunteer Pan Zihao. Although they were not the actual torchbearers, the torch was genuine. Being able to relay 50 meters at PKU was an unexpected reward to Pan, whose only regret was that the torch was not lit.




It was even more demanding to be a signboard-holding volunteer. At 1 pm when the sun blazed most fiercely down, Feng Hui, a ’14 student from School of Life Sciences, came to Junzhai Building to rehearse for the role as the guide for torchbearers. She said, “Since today is only a rehearsal, volunteers do not need to hold up the signboard the whole time. But tomorrow we will have to. Especially when the volunteers arrive, we will have to hold it above our heads.” However, the most exhausting role lay on the shoulders of the "defense students." A ’14 "defense student" from EECS said, ” We had to assemble at 6:50 am to get our costumes, and then start rehearsal at 8:30 am.” At 10:30 am they rehearsed for a second time, and then at 1:30 pm, the 80 "defense students" went back to the Triangle to prepare for the next day’s duty.


"They are really outstanding," Fu Chenghao from the PKU Youth Volunteer Association praised this troop of student volunteers, who were recruited last minute on Weimin BBS. Under the guidance of the organizers, this large group of student volunteers completed the two rehearsals on May 3. This was very encouraging to the both the organizers and the Youth Volunteer Association.


When the torch relay ended, volunteers could not wait to share their experience with the reporters. A ’14 student from the School of Foreign Languages said, “We came at around 7 am, it was really cold then.” But for him, participating in this activity signified that he was now “a true youth.” Chu Tianhong, a ’14 student majored in Japanese studies, confessed that although he still felt a little alienated from PKU after studying here for less than a year, this volunteering experience filled him with a sense of belonging and made him feel proud of the school. Chen from Yuanpei College felt proud of herself and was also happy to see Jackie Chan, concluding that her volunteer experience was worth it in any case.



Extended Reading:

World University Games torch relay kicks off

Sidelights on 2011 Shenzhen Universiade torch relay at PKU



Written by: Wang Yimian and Ma Anyi

Edited by: Li Xiaomeng

Souce: PKU Youth