Chinese superfan spends thousands on Olympic souvenir obsession
Crammed on every available surface in Zhang Wenquan's crowded Beijing home is Olympic memorabilia -- from mascots and torches to flags, banners, clothes and cuddly toys.
The Chinese superfan scours the internet for rare souvenirs and snaps selfies several times a week by the countdown clock to the 2022 Winter Games in the capital.
Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics when the event kicks off in February -- a dream come true for the construction firm worker.
Zhang's interest was first piqued when he became glued to the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a high-school student.
I saw China win many gold medals and felt inspired, the 35-year-old told AFP.
When the Games came to Beijing in 2008, he worked as an official volunteer -- a life-changing experience that sparked his passion for collecting souvenirs.
Wearing a 2022 Winter Olympics scarf and sweatshirt emblazoned with its mascot -- plus a headband reading Come on, Winter Olympics! -- Zhang shows off the array of merchandise covering his home.
The house is so full of piles of boxes that he has been forced to sleep elsewhere.
He estimates spending at least 400,000 yuan ($62,800) on 5,000 souvenirs so far.
Zhang scours eBay daily for new listings, with the most expensive find being a $1,900 torch from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
He has row upon row of the mascot Bing Dwen Dwen for the coming Winter Games -- a panda wearing a shell made of ice -- in various colours and sizes.
He also receives donations of merchandise from Olympic volunteers.
Some of these people I've never even met but they still send things to me, so I feel extremely moved, he said.
His collection is now being displayed in local schools and universities in the run-up to the Games.
He proudly showed off to AFP one of his favourites, a first-edition mascot for the 1972 Munich Games that was later redesigned.
I hear that there are only 10 of the original, so it is extremely rare, he said, carefully turning the small brown dachshund figurine over in his hands.
- Chinese pride -
In 2008, Zhang helped with scoring at Beijing's Wukesong Baseball Stadium -- a photo from the time shows a scrawny, bespectacled young man in a sky-blue Olympic jersey proudly holding a baseball bat aloft in an empty arena.
In his cluttered house, a framed certificate of participation hangs on the wall.
The mega-fan said he often skipped meals during the Games to collect the food and drink tokens given to volunteers rather than exchanging them for supplies -- despite catching a cold.
I suffered not a small amount back then! he chuckled.
But Zhang was intoxicated by the atmosphere in 2008 at a time of extraordinary national pride.
China won 48 gold medals and displayed its growing strength as a global power.
Zhang was not successful in the competitive selection process to be a 2022 volunteer but hopes to obtain tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies -- as well as his favourite sport, figure skating.
He currently makes frequent trips to Beijing's Olympic sites.
His face lights up when he recounts waiting outside the capital's Bird's Nest stadium during a dress rehearsal for February's Games, watching rays of light beam into the night sky.
The stadium was lit up spectacularly, it was several hundred times more beautiful than the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he said.
And Zhang is already making plans to go to Paris for the 2024 Games.
I really want to collect the Paris 2024 torch and mascot. Although they haven't been released yet, I'm ready and waiting.
(2022/01/13 12:27)Click Here for Japanese Translation
AFP-JIJI PRESS NEWS JOURNAL
- 01/18 11:47 World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during Covid-- report
- 01/18 11:42 Bombardments, glamor and gangsters mark history of Cuba's Hotel Nacional
- 01/18 11:38 Queen Margrethe, Denmark's unifying force, fetes 50th jubilee
- 01/18 11:35 Dimming Sun's rays should be off-limits, say experts
- 01/18 11:32 Ugandan children back to school after nearly 2-year Covid closure
- 01/18 11:30 China says freight train trade with North Korea resumes after two years
- 01/17 11:46 Thieves loot freight trains in Los Angeles with impunity
- 01/17 11:41 US approves new antibody treatment -- for arthritic cats
- 01/17 11:38 Dutch king ditches golden coach with slavery images
- 01/17 11:34 Djokovic saga leaves Australian Open mired in uncertainty
- 01/17 11:28 Indonesian student's selfies fetch $1 million in NFT sales
- 01/17 11:26 Tormented 'Betty Blue' director Jean-Jacques Beineix dies
- 01/14 11:36 Chinese woman stuck in blind date's house after city lockdown
- 01/14 11:33 Goldfish can drive fish tank on wheels, Israel study finds
- 01/14 11:31 Century-old game of button football a cult sport in Hungary
- 01/14 11:27 Human cost of China's green energy rush ahead of Winter Olympics
- 01/14 11:20 In Ukraine's trenches, strays bring respite to Russia-wary troops
- 01/14 11:16 Israel says Iran 'spy network' recruited women online
- 01/13 12:27 Chinese superfan spends thousands on Olympic souvenir obsession
- 01/13 12:24 Music-loving pope visits Rome record store
- 01/13 12:21 Ecuador, Colombia slam use of wild animal species after MasterChef episode
- 01/13 12:19 Kim's first decade-- 3 US meetings, 2 dead relatives, 1 nuclear arsenal
- 01/13 12:09 Russian baby tiger fights for life after frostbite, surgery
- 01/13 12:06 Poet Maya Angelou becomes first Black woman to appear on US coin
- 01/12 12:29 US cops ditched robbery call for Pokemon Go hunt
- 01/12 12:26 Held up by history-- Roman ruins provide building blocks for Serbian village
- 01/12 12:22 Victims to heroes-- India's lower castes take cinematic centre stage
- 01/12 12:17 Iran says only 12 Asiatic cheetahs left in the country
- 01/12 12:13 Health first, freedom second? How Covid is changing democracies
- 01/12 12:07 Cambodia's landmine-sniffing rat hero dies
- 01/11 11:57 Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou to direct Olympic ceremony again
- 01/11 11:52 Turkmenistan plans to close its 'Gateway to Hell'
- 01/11 11:48 Too many gorillas? The great apes' hunt for space in Rwanda
- 01/11 11:41 Creepy meets cool in humanoid robots at CES tech show
- 01/11 11:34 Europe nuclear plants 'need 500 bn euro investment by 2050'-- EU commissioner
- 01/11 11:31 Afghan baby lost in US airlift chaos reunited with family