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Beijing's United Nations

Challenges Like Communication Overcome With Smiles

By Published on .

Kevin Tressler
Kevin Tressler
I've had quite a few fascinating experiences over the last few days at the games through people-watching around Beijing, hanging out at the Olympic Green and spending time with the athletes in their temporary home, the Olympic Village. The games represented a unique idea when they were conceived at the end of the 19th century, bringing the world together in peace, friendship and harmony. That goal is more than evident today. The athletes hang out with each other at the village, desperately trying to communicate.

Volunteers recruited by Beijing's organizing committee greet visitors with a smile and race to find someone in their group who speaks whatever language is necessary at that moment. Chinese people, especially Beijing residents, are reaching out to foreigners to make them feel welcome in this country.

I spent a half-day at the Olympic Village, a confluence of world cultures literally under one roof. My first thought was one of complete awe. These are the fittest people in the world. They are also the most positive and inspirational.

To celebrate this, we have given the athletes here a gift, a t-shirt made out of recycled PET bottles. The shirts have a simple yet powerful message everyone can relate to: "I'm from Earth."
Athlete competes wearing Coke t-shirt
Athlete competes wearing Coke t-shirt Credit: Kevin Tressler
In multicultural terms, Coke isn't that different from the Olympic Games; we are our own United Nations, operating in more than 200 countries. No matter where you come from, what you look like or what language you speak, the games unite us and reinforce the notion that we are all ultimately citizens of earth. We should collectively care about the future of the world we live in (so it is sustainable).

It was heartwarming to see athletes wearing this T-shirt and also to see a weightlifter from Azerbaijan actually competing while wearing it.

Attending the Olympic Games has also been a learning experience for me about Chinese people. I love how they are reaching out to visitors to take pictures. In almost every case, they make a "V" with their fingers and give a big smile. I'm interpreting the "V" as a gesture of peace, which is what it historically has stood for in Western countries. Even though communication isn't easy, a smile or a laugh says it all.

One last thought: The sheer size of the Olympic Green is certainly making athletes out of all of us with all the walking one has to do. Most folks here are gonna go back home a lot lighter and fitter!

Olympic athlete wearing Coke T-shirt
Olympic athlete wearing Coke T-shirt Credit: Kevin Tressler
Olympic visitors
Olympic visitors Credit: Kevin Tressler
Coke's Kevin Tressler (l) with Olympic visitor
Coke's Kevin Tressler (l) with Olympic visitor
Kevin Tressler (r) with Olympic visitor
Kevin Tressler (r) with Olympic visitor
Olympic visitors
Olympic visitors Credit: Kevin Tressler

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