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April 6, 2010

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Hard work, no pay, yet thousands compete to be Miss Etiquettes

With only a month to the opening of World Expo 2010 Shanghai, nearly 300 women chosen to be Miss Etiquettes for the Expo are still competing and receiving final training at the Hangzhou Paradise Amusement Park.

The top three will be chosen at a final competition on April 11.

At the water park, a girl in shorts and vest stands on one leg while her partner swoops down a water slide, grasps a bar aloft taking her to a floating inflatable "mountain," jumps on to moving surface, clasps a beam using her arms and legs and rolls with it together ?

It is a game to test physique and teamwork. If either of them cannot finish the tasks or loses her balance they will have failed.

These tough tasks have been the lot of the pretty and slender young women chosen for World Expo roles over the past month.

Last June, selection of Miss Etiquettes for World Expo 2010 began. There were no prizes, no medals, just arduous training and hard work. Yet, the competition attracted more than 10,000 women from every corner of the country and attracted 30 million online votes.

Last month, the final 300 volunteers were selected.

Two more tournaments will decide the top 60 and the top 30 at Shanghai and Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang Province.

When World Expo begins, 221 will be chosen to hold the flag for delegations at the opening ceremony while the top 30 will act as guides for heads of state in the arena.

All of the girls will be present at Expo pavilions as receptionists during the event - the top 60 volunteers will be available during the whole six-month-long period, and the remainder will be on standby.

Although it might sound like a beauty contest, the selection process involved a lot more than just answering questions and wearing beautiful dresses.

First, all of the 60 girls must be able to carry out the six-month volunteer job without payment; second, at the top 60 knockout, players need to pass a bilingual language ability test and a game designed to test their ability to cope in an emergency.

Third, in a physical test, they have to do 30 sit-ups, crawl forward 20 meters, cross a fence and ford a creek, and then dress in qipao, put their hair in a bun, apply makeup and run back to the starting point in high-heel shoes.

Players who run slowly, have untidy hair, or don't conform to the standard look were out.

"These seemingly cruel games are exactly designed for Expo's ceremony work," says Du Fang, the chief director of the competition. "Let's take the China Pavilion as an example, the area is so large that staff may walk 10 kilometers every day. Only excellent physique qualifies someone for the job."

The top 30 were selected last week and these designated the job of receiving world leaders are undergoing final training in Hangzhou.

Every morning, they run for 40 minutes on an empty stomach, and have training in makeup, culture and ceremony classes during the day.

In the makeup and ceremony classes, the standards applied to the hostesses at the Beijing Olympics are used.

"Straighten the neck and head, eyes level at front, lips going for ears, relax and square shoulders, chest out, abdomen in, tighten crotch, knees and heels," a teacher tells women as they learn the proper way to stand.

Books on their head, chopsticks in mouth, a slice of paper between their knees, girls wearing 6-centimeter high-heel shoes follow the teacher's instruction to adjust their posture.

They also practice holding a 3-kilogram, 2-meter flagpole for one minute or longer without trembling.

The tough classes are aimed at improving their endurance and their posture, and sometimes may last all day long, and sometimes outdoors.

Zhao Fang is an experienced hostess who was the ceremonies guide for the Philippines at the Beijing Olympics.

She says that she and her teammates are not too worried about the tests as the 300 had already been chosen but even she has found the challenges difficult. She nearly missed out on being one of the top 60 because she wasn't fast enough in one test.

Besides the physical tests, the women are learning how to apply a perfect makeup in one minute, where they should stand in relation to heads of state and what behaviors and words are taboo to different countries' people.


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