FEATURE: Asian Games tout ‘Etiquette Angels’

AFP, GUANGZHOU, CHINA

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - Page 5

Forty days of intensive training, up to eight sessions a day of non-stop grueling 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 this year’s 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 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 the podium.

The training was grueling, 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,” Ding said. “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. However, not Asian Games directors.

“We have to reveal at least four teeth while smiling,” Ding said.

That was quite a challenge, she admitted, but she learned 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 1.68m and 1.78m 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.

Wu Yi (吳怡) has been dubbed “Miss Smile” by China’s 420 million netizens after being captured on television during the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday fixing the same smile for nearly 20 minutes of speeches.