It's time for another Central Station Blog! In this edition we speak with Fengwei An. Besides being involved in diversity and inclusion, he is a fanatical rower with a great ambition: to work at the Olympic Games! Want to know why exactly? Then read on!
The Olympic Games: more than just sport!
The Olympic Games: more than just sport!
The Olympic Games, the sporting event of the coming year that many are looking forward to. One of them is Fengwei An, rower and Master’s student in International Relations and Business Administration, who has already volunteered twice at the Olympic Games in Beijing and London. His future dream? To work at the Olympic Games! For many, it is primarily a sporting event held in summer or winter, but there is much more to it than that. So does diversity and inclusion. What else exactly? Fengwei tells you all about it!
Take us with you on how your dream came to be!
“I was born in China and lived here for two years. Soon we emigrated to England and quite a few years later we ended up in the Netherlands. Not born in the Netherlands, but partly raised there. I have always had strong roots with the home front in China. Because we returned every year, I kept feeling connected. I was impressed by how China developed at such a rapid pace. A development that we in Europe and people of our generation have not experienced. Every time you return to a country like that, you see that things change at a tremendous rate.
Then, as a ten-year-old boy, when I heard that China was in the running to host the 2008 Games, I had already decided for myself and loudly announced: “I have to be there, I have to see it! The run-up to the Olympics and, as the icing on the cake, attending the event itself. In 2008 I was able to work as a volunteer in Beijing! A fantastic experience.”
Volunteer during the Olympic Games in 2008
Fengwei enthusiastically tells what it was like to be a volunteer there: “I was 16 years old, but could pass as a young adult of 18. Because I knew the city of Beijing well and spoke the language, I was allowed to play a small role. I supervised badminton and, because I was multilingual, I also coordinated other events. At such times, you are not concerned with how important you are in the chain. Just being there, being helpful and putting a smile on someone’s face by pointing them in the right direction was incredibly valuable!
I grew up with a different background in the West. I remember in England and Holland wanting to stand out amongst my group of friends and fit in, but in the run-up to the 2008 Games I started to think differently. People from all over the world came to China. Right now I was very proud to be carrying a different colour backpack. Even though the country has plenty of pitfalls, at that moment I wanted nothing more than to show China at its best.”
“Hosting the Olympic Games has profound implications for a country”.”
Fengwei tells what made a deep impression on him: “You get carried away with the whole thing. During a period of a few short weeks, dozens of ‘world championships’ are held simultaneously in one big city, which turns the country and its entire population upside down. For me, it was the moment I realised that hosting the Games has far-reaching consequences for a country. For most people, the Games are at first sight a sporting event held in summer or winter, but there is much more to it than that. For instance, do you want your country to qualify to host the Olympic Games? Then you send in a well thought-out package of plans,” says Fengwei.
“For example, we look at what can be done to get children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods more involved in sport. How can certain social gaps between population groups be narrowed by applying an element of sport and play? But also, how can we encourage sport and a healthy lifestyle in society? The intention is therefore that an edition of the Olympic Games is not only interesting for the passionate sports fan and top athlete, but that it carries with it an ingrained and influential role and legacy in the wider society.”
Fengwei continues passionately: “In addition, we are talking about gigantic projects costing billions of euros. Not just sports stadiums that have to be built, but also infrastructure developments in terms of public transport, the renovation of airports and the construction of roads. Entire neighbourhoods are being built. Often, this is partly done to facilitate the participating athletes, but by means of a well thought-out zoning plan, facilities are reused as effectively as possible. People think in terms of seven years ahead: at the Olympic Games, but also decades afterwards. The whole, all these plans together, make whether a country has a good ‘bid’. In addition, a certain amount of political lobbying is involved, as well as a bit of luck.
“THE OLYMPIC GAMES IS ALSO ABOUT DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. ”
“It is also about diversity and inclusion, and I emphasise inclusion. That everyone in a country can get involved. In 2008, you saw this enormously in Beijing. The population had become so closely associated with the Olympic movement at that time. That was special to see and inspired me. I expect this theme to play a bigger role in the future.
Diversity and inclusion is a topic that Fengwei is currently very involved with. For three quarters of a year, he has been busy with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a newly established working group of the Royal National Rowing Association.
“Also within the sport of rowing we are trying to emphasise inclusion, so that this sport can be more open than it has been so far. On all fronts there can be difference from the norm. It can be skin colour, sexual orientation, a hobby or religion that is different from what we know. We believe it is important that all people feel welcome, safe and supported. That is why we start with inclusion. We do this by raising awareness and actively involving people in this issue. We are starting from scratch and are talking to all kinds of experts and other sports associations to shape our own sport around this theme. That gives us a lot of energy!
How do you achieve your dream?
“Building on my background in International Relations, I am starting the Master in Business Administration in Rotterdam this year. Instead of policy-making, I want to gain more insight into strategy and business operations. When the Olympic Games are held, we are actually talking about a company that operates. I am going to learn more about the operationalisation of such a large event. That in combination with my practical experiences, also in the field of diversity and inclusion, I expect to lay a good fundamental foundation to circle back to the Olympics at a later stage and make a valuable contribution to it.
We would like to thank Fengwei for the inspiring conversation and wish him all the best with these beautiful ambitions!
(Photo 1: Source: Fengwei An)
Written by The Olympic Games: more than just sport!
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