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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Meet Zhang Wenquan: China’s Olympic Games superfan collector

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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, this avid collector has it all.


The Chinese superfan scours the internet everyday 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 have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics when the latter event kicks off in February – a dream come true for the construction firm worker.


’I saw China win many gold medals and felt inspired’


Zhang’s interest first began 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 says.


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 (€55,000) on 5,000 souvenirs so far.

Zhang scours eBay daily for new listings, with the most expensive find being a €1,680 torch from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.


His collection is now being displayed in local schools and universities in the run-up to the Games.

Zhang’s personal participation in the Olympic Games dates back to 2008

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.


Despite skipping meals to watch the games and suffering from illness, Zhang was intoxicated by the atmosphere in 2008 at a time of extraordinary national pride.


China won 100 medals (48 gold) 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.

In the meantime, frequent visits are made to the sites of his formative experiences the last time the capital was tasked with hosting.


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.

What’s more, he is already making plans to go to Paris for the world’s next summer games.

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