More than 2,000 volunteers are being recruited to help at the equestrian Olympics in the city next year. Horace Yuen Hoi-sing, director of corporate administration at the Equestrian Company, says participants will help create an Olympic legacy for the city that will last long after the Games.
We have had a very good response to our appeal for volunteers to help at the Olympics. This is something that only happens once in 100 years. It is a once in a lifetime event so a lot of people are keen to join. People want to be involved.
They are very excited about the Olympics even though many of them have no previous experience of equestrian events. They are curious and they have a lot of passion and want to contribute to society.
I have been telling the volunteers that they are priceless. Even if we wanted to pay them it would not be as good as volunteers because you are talking about community participation. They are all very committed people who want to contribute to an important mission.
The recruitment of volunteers is being done in three batches. We began taking in the first batch in November. We have recruited about 200 of them. These volunteers are the people who will help us through planning and organising the other batches of volunteers. Some we used as group leaders and trainers for the future.
The second batch of 700 was recruited up to the end of March. The deadline for the third batch of about 1,500 will be the end of this year.
Volunteers go through a very stringent selection process. We do initial screening based on knowledge and skills, language and education standard. We pay particular attention to those experienced in Olympics and volunteer work. Then we invite them to an interview section, mostly done in group interview - seven to eight candidates together and we test how they will respond to certain issues for discussion, like anti-doping.
In the first batch, we have taken people from all walks of life. We need some experienced people and we need students and we need housewives to lead other people in doing the work. The spectrum is pretty balanced. We have university professors and doctors and lawyers and we have students, housewives and retirees.
In the second batch our emphasis is on students, particularly university students. We have conducted promotion talks at universities to promote the importance of the Olympics to Hong Kong and the importance of volunteers.
The third batch will be very similar to the second batch except we would like to emphasise minorities, the underprivileged and the disabled, because we are not only recruiting for the Olympics - we are also recruiting for the Paralympics.
It will be difficult for a lot of people to get leave from employers for the Olympics so I would appeal to employers to try to let these volunteers get away from work for maybe 10 days.
It is not only the attitude of the volunteers that matters. It is the attitude of employers, who we hope will take a generous step to allow their staff to contribute to society.
Hong Kong has a long history of volunteerism. Almost half of university students in Hong Kong consider doing some sort of volunteer work, more than in other parts of the world. Even after they have graduated they retain the enthusiasm for doing some kind of volunteer work. What they lack, unfortunately, is the time to do it.
In other parts of the world, when the Olympics are over, people always talk about the Olympic legacy. Here in Hong Kong the best legacy that we are going to get is the spirit of volunteerism. We probably will not have permanent landmarks afterwards because the two venues are very much temporary.
What will be permanent is in the hearts and minds of Hong Kong people and the hearts and minds of our volunteers. Their unity, their enthusiasm, their passion, their willingness, their tolerance and their role in bringing together Chinese culture and western culture - these are the things that have never been done before in this way. That will be our legacy - and it is a very important legacy.
Details of the Olympic volunteer programme are available at www.equestrian2008.org