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March 14, 2011

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On a blind date ... with 1,000 people

AS he leans awkwardly against a wall, clutching a soft drink bottle, everyone passing by can sense Zhang Junye is nervous, and a little embarrassed.

Wearing thick glasses, 27-year-old Zhang steals glances at the women around him but does not approach anyone and say "hello." Neither do the women come up to him.

"I may pluck up the courage," said Zhang, with an anxious smile. "Or maybe not."

Zhang, along with more than 1,000 other young men and women, gathered for a game-style blind date yesterday afternoon at a stadium in downtown Jing'an District, hoping to find their Mr or Miss Right or just make friends.

The event, entitled "Meet Along Metro Line 2," was organized by the Metro operator together with Jing'an, Pudong and Changning district governments.

Many of the young people attending work at offices along Line 2 and may see fellow blind date candidates on the daily commute.

Traditional Chinese reserve was put aside for a while, at a time many young people worry that they will be left on the shelf in this highly competitive society.

"I do not want to be called a 'leftover woman,'" said one woman at the event.

It has been claimed some young women and their families set their standards for a future husband unrealistically high.

"It's a totally different age now," said a man, surnamed Li, sitting on a bench in the stadium.

Li, in his 50s, came here for his 23-year-old daughter. The blind-date organizers didn't want parents to attend but Li was able to sneak in. "She has her own standards and won't confide in us," said Li, admitting that he did not tell his daughter he was coming.

Li said when he was dating, men and women earned the same salary in factories, and families from both sides would not see much of a gap.

It's a very different world to the one inhabited by the young men and women playing games and joining lucky draws in front of Li.

Trying to keep a low-profile, one new couple quietly left the stadium after taking game prizes for their "successful speed date."

"We need to get to know each other more in the days ahead," said the woman, aged 25, as she and her 30-year-old date left.

"It's an interesting topic," said Zhu Bin, a Jing'an District government official who co-organized the event. "While it's easy to get to know people online, it's difficult to keep a relationship going."

Work pressures and people preferring online relationships cause problems, said Zhu, adding that a similar event is scheduled for the coming months.

Two hours into the event, 36 of the 1,000-plus participants had hit it off sufficiently well to make a date.

The remainder were still optimistic that they could find their ideal partner.

Terence Huang, an IT worker, said he met two women but did not get their phone numbers nor take part in any games.

"I still have chances," said Huang. "As long as I'm no longer shy."


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