The success of any major sporting event depends on the volunteers and the 150-plus people who have signed up to give their personal time to the Sanya stopover are making a powerful impression on the thousands of visitors to the Race Village each day.
They come from all over China and are studying at local schools universities in Hainan Province. They don’t necessarily know much about sailing but they are experts at keeping people happy and helping to ensure the smooth running of the Race Village Experience.
Zhao Xin heads up the volunteers, who are instantly noticeable around the village for their blue and white uniforms. He explains what they were looking for when they interviewed the 400 or so applicants for a programme that has far exceeded the expectations of race organisers.
“The volunteer has to have a kind heart and a mind that wants to explore everything,” says Mr Zhao, who uses the western name Tom. “They are all enjoying it, though they are missing about a week of school.”
Tom explains that the volunteers are staying in accommodation near their universities and get transport to and from work, with either lunch or dinner thrown in, depending on the shift they are working.
Lan Jin, an 18-year-old student from Sanya Vocational University, was so keen on getting involved that he bypassed the usual channels.
“I heard the teacher tell the class that the Volvo Ocean Race needed some volunteers so I rang the government line — 114 — and asked if they needed help,” he said. “The government was so impressed with my perseverance and strength of will.”
Mr Lan, who goes by the western name of Conrad, said working as a volunteer gave him a feeling of pride.
“I feel it is a big achievement for me,” Conrad says. “I can express my feelings, have pride and be organised. In the 3D cinema I have to tell the queue to be polite, be patient and enjoy the experience. I have to be very organised.”
Over 13,000 people have been through the doors of the 3D cinema in Sanya already, and the Dome, Grinder and Simulator are packing them in at a similar rate of knots.
Kerstin Bramley works with the volunteers from the Volvo Ocean Race side and she gave an insight into the scale of their responsibilities.
“The volunteers work are behind the smooth running of all the attractions here in the race village — the 3D cinema, the Dome, the Simulator, air balls, trucks, the Grinder… They do things like queue control, counting the people through the cinema, handing out 3D glasses, putting air in the air balls … the list goes on.
“We started out with 40 volunteers for the first four days and now we’re up to 150 so it’s a popular spot to be in. They have been absolutely fantastic and frankly we couldn’t do it without them.”