Manual aims to ensure volunteers are sitting pretty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am

Keep legs loosely crossed at the ankle, chest erect, lips slightly closed, chin forward and smile with both eyes facing forwards.

No, it's not a Miss Manners etiquette class but instructions for Olympic volunteers on how to sit correctly while on duty. The manual gives tips on posture, international taboos, dealing with emergencies such as toxic gas and fires, and social graces.

It tells volunteers how to stand still ('push chest forward, draw the abdomen inward, and slightly hold the hips up, with two arms naturally down and fingers naturally drooping') and walk ('steady steps, natural paces with rhythms, woman's skirt will move with footsteps').

It explains how they should shake hands ('palm up and a little leftward down ... naturally hold other's hand slightly for 3 to 5 seconds. Look into the eye of the other with a sincere smile and greeting').

The manual instructs volunteers how to navigate the minefield of international etiquette at an event that will attract athletes, delegates, officials and fans from more than 200 countries and territories.

It points out that in Thailand, Myanmar, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, the left hand is considered unclean, so it is inappropriate to use that hand to hold food, touch others or pass items.

The manual warns westerners may be offended if they touch their belongings, and elderly westerners may be offended if they attempt to assist them without being asked to do so.

And then there's the colour issue. The handbook advises that black is considered funereal, that Moroccans and Indians equate white with poverty, that Ethiopians wear yellow to mourn the dead while Brazilians believe it means desperation, that Iraqis think blue represents the devil and Uruguayans believe greenish blue is related to darkness.

Perhaps most useful are the six pages on how to deal with emergencies such as heatstroke victims, stampedes, stalled elevators, fires and toxic gas.

It details how to evacuate a crowded venue and how to avoid being trampled ('escape to one side or squat in a corner'), as well as what to do in a blackout ('plug out and roll up problematic wires to prevent stumbling in the dark').

The tens of thousands of volunteers from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and abroad will be supplied with an online copy of the manual to prepare for all eventualities.