Groups of Chinese volunteers crochet yarn bouquets for Olympic medalists

February 10, 2022

BEIJING – Medalists from the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games receive bouquets of yarn, crocheted over several months by groups of dedicated volunteers, which include pensioners, people with disabilities and the elderly.

At previous Games, fresh flowers were used for medal ceremonies. However, the traditional Shanghai crochet bouquets do not fade and will be more permanent reminders of the Beijing Games.

The Shanghai bouquet originated in the mid-19th century when practitioners in Shanghai, a global warehouse, fused Chinese and Western techniques, according to Agence France-Presse.

The wool bouquets include depictions of seven flowers and plants: the rugosa rose; chinese rose; hydrangea; Lily of the valley; laurels; sweet osmanthus; and olive branches. They represent friendship, perseverance, happiness, unity, victory, kindness and peace, said Lin Cunzhen, who designed the emblems for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Lin said the bouquets for the Paralympic Games will be changed to add the perennial coreopsis, a type of daisy, to represent bravery.

Gao Tian, ​​deputy director of the culture and ceremonial department of the Beijing 2022 Games Organizing Committee, said medalists who have already received the wool bouquets have been impressed with the design. “I’ve seen many medal winners take pictures with the bouquets close to their face or high above their heads. I think they must be happy to receive this special keepsake,” she said at the press conference.

A total of 1,251 bouquets are needed for medalists at the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Each flower is made by hand, which requires time and labor.

“It takes 20 minutes to crochet a rose petal. A rose consists of 10 petals, three leaves and a stem. A crocheter should spend at least five hours on a rose,” said Li Meili, 70, an heiress to the traditional Shanghai woolen crochet technique, who designed the bouquet.

Li said it takes 35 hours to make an entire bouquet.

After retiring, Li started learning crochet in her 50s. She crocheted bouquets for the China International Import Expo and the 10th China Flower Expo last year, which were well received by visitors.

Shanghai wool manufacturer Hengyuanxiang Group has recruited groups of crocheters in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces to join the project.

Li is responsible for staff training, quality control and final bouquet assembly.

In order to ensure the consistency of bouquets, each group is assigned one or two types of flowers, which are sent to Hengyuanxiang headquarters for assembly after they are completed.

A group of volunteer crocheters in Shanghai responsible for producing the roses for the bouquets has members aged 31 to 81.

“I’m not a sports fan. But I will follow this year’s Winter Olympics as well as the Paralympic Games because I felt so proud to have this precious opportunity myself to participate in both events,” Mu Guoying, 81, told the portal. news in a recent interview.

About 150 people with disabilities also helped make the bouquets, including several people from the Beijing Spinal Cord Injury Care Center.

“The final procedure for making a flower is to check whether it has sharp parts,” said the center’s Guo Yuanyuan, adding that they don’t want the recipients to feel any discomfort.

The organizing committee said that the woolen bouquets not only replicate the natural bouquets used in previous Olympic victory ceremonies, but also implement the concept of sustainability.

On Sunday, the five members of the Chinese team who won the 2,000-meter short track mixed skating relay received the crocheted bouquets during the victory ceremony at the Beijing Medal Plaza.

Qu Chunyu, a member of the team, said that she had seen a documentary about woolen bouquets and knew how they were made and what they meant. “The bouquet implies warmth and harmony. It can be kept forever and become “the eternal Olympic flower”. We will guard them carefully,” Qu said in an interview with Xinmin Evening News.

Li, the heiress to the yarn crochet technique, said she was strict about production standards and the quality of the bouquets. “I chose fine wool. The crochet will be slower, but the bouquets will be more exquisite,” she said.