Chinese superfan spends ₦25.7m on Olympic souvenir obsession

Chinese superfan spends ₦25.7m on Olympic souvenir obsession

Zhang's collection is being displayed in local schools and universities in the run-up to the Beijing Winter Games

Jade GAO AFP

Agency Report

A Chinese superfan Zhang Wenquan has reportedly spent at least 400,000 yuan ($62,800 or ₦25,722,252 per Google rate) Olympic souverniers.

Crammed on every available surface in 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.

Wenquan'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.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Olympic superfan Zhang Wenquan has a massive collection of Olympic souvenirs at his home in Beijing</p></div>

Olympic superfan Zhang Wenquan has a massive collection of Olympic souvenirs at his home in Beijing

Jade GAO 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!" -- Wenquan 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.

Wenquan 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, Wenquan 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 Wenquan 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.

Wenquan 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 Wenquan 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."

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