Changing China

Giant on the move

How many teeth in a smile?

February 13, 2008

Wang Wei, executive vice president and secretary general of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), smiles during news conference in Beijing“The smile of our volunteers is Beijing’s best calling card,” Liu Qi, President of the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG),  August 2006. 

Given that Liu Qi is also the head of the Beijing Communist Party and a member of China’s Politburo, there was no doubt that this pithy phrase would not be forgotten in the training of the 100,000 volunteers for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Indeed, there is some evidence that officials have put a great deal of thought into what constitutes winning grinning.   

The perfect smile consists of “only showing the eight top teeth”, women being groomed to be medal presenters at August’s Games were being told at a camp at the Beijing Foreign Affairs School at the end of last year.

The good news for the majority of volunteers is that they will not be held to such exacting standards, according to the head of the Olympic and Paralympic volunteer programme, Liu Jian. 

“We say if you want to show your kindness and goodwill to others, show your seven and half teeth to them,” he said last month.

So there you have it. Half a tooth, the difference between a warm welcome and a world class smile.

Picture: BOCOG  vice president Wang Wei gives it the full eight teeth (by Grace Liang/Reuters)For more on the volunteer training programme, check out Liu Zhen’s feature on a Beijing boot camp. It doesn’t sound like much fun. 

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