Gruelling training to produce Asian Games' 'Etiquette Angels'
By Peter Stebbings
GUANGZHOU, China, Nov 15, 2010 - Forty days of intensive training, up to eight sessions a day of non-stop gruelling practice - nothing was spared to ensure the "Etiquette Angels" elevated the Asian Games to celestial heights.
Just ask Ding Ling, whose hopes of becoming a "Miss Etiquette" for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were dashed as she was only 16 at the time.
Not to be deterred, Ding tried again.
"I feel very excited and a bit nervous," she said, after emerging successful through the 2010 Asian Games Miss Etiquette contest, which was followed by a summer training camp.
Nicknamed "Asian Angels" or "Etiquette Angels", the hostesses' main job at the on-going Games is to escort VIPs to present medals to the athletes.
During Games events they can be seen warming up for medal ceremonies by holding out their arms, elbows firmly tucked into their bodies, carrying an imaginary tray of medals to an imaginary winner on the podium.
The training was gruelling, Ding said, including learning to stand for at least one hour at a time without dropping a sheet of paper tucked between their knees or letting a book fall from their heads.
If either did hit the floor, they would have to start all over again.
"We held a medal tray carrying six full bottles of mineral water for up to half an hour each time," said the statuesque Ding, a university student who wants to be a stewardess.
"The first time I was finally able to lay down the tray my arm was so sore I couldn't stop crying."
And then there was the smile training.
Traditional Chinese deem it ungraceful for a woman to bare her teeth when she smiles. But not Asian Games chiefs.
"We have to reveal at least four teeth while smiling," Ding, who hails from Anhui province, in the east of China, told state press.
That was quite a challenge, she admitted, but she learnt in the end by sticking a spoon in her mouth.
Ding, resplendent in a traditional Chinese-style gown, is one of 380 hostesses gracing the Games and later the Asian Para Games.
Aged between 17 and 25, most are students and were required to be between 1.68 and 1.78 metres tall.
The hours of perfecting the Asian Games smile has made one of the hostesses an overnight Internet sensation among the world's biggest online community.
The photogenic Wu Yi has been dubbed "Miss Smile" by China's 420 million netizens after being captured on television during the opening ceremony of the Games Friday fixing the same smile for nearly 20 minutes of speeches.
For airline stewardess Xu Yameng, the training has had far-reaching benefits.
"The high standards and tough physical exercise pushed everybody to the limit," said the native of Shandong province, on China's east coast.
"But after graduating from the 40-day course, I felt that my soul was elevated by this accomplishment and I know that any problems I might have in the future will seem like a piece of cake," she told the China Daily.
A typical day at the camp meant getting up at 6:30am with two hours of military drills, followed by 30 minutes of posture exercises.
"The day-time session usually concluded at 7:00pm, but then another two-hour session of military drills awaited us after supper," Xu said.
The hostesses also took courses in oral English, service manners and Asian Games history, as well as more subtle forms of communication.
"We are required to express amicability and sincerity through our eyes, not just by striking a pose," Xu said.