With the closing ceremony of the World Games yesterday, the curtain came down on Taiwan’s first performance as host of an international sports event of this scale. During the Games, the efforts of Taiwan’s athletes, the efficiency of the organizers and the enthusiasm of volunteers helped the nation step into a new role in international sports. As a bonus, Taiwanese athletes took home a record number of medals. Taiwanese can be proud.
The Games, praised by International World Games Association president Ron Froehlich, reflected Taiwan’s best characteristics: sincerity, friendliness, enthusiasm, freedom and diversity.
Hosting the Games was no easy task — starting with Kaohsiung’s bid for the event. When former Kaohsiung mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) promoted the bid, many said it was a pipe dream. Pessimists said Taiwan had no experience hosting such a large sporting event and that China would block the bid.
Since Kaohsiung won the bid, control of the central government has passed from one party to another. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration obstructed preparations in a number of ways, but Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and the city’s residents continued their work. Chen took the initiative, making a surprise promotional visit to Beijing and Shanghai aimed at overcoming misunderstandings and ensuring China’s fullest possible support. Kudos to Chen and others who made the Games successful.
Under pressure from China, Taiwan has no choice but to take part in international sports events under the title “Chinese Taipei.” Taiwanese teams fly flags featuring the national flower rather than the national flag and the National Banner Song is played instead of the national anthem.
At previous international sporting events in Taiwan, such as the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup, KMT authorities and police collaborated with organizers to prevent spectators from waving the national flag. While the World Games were also held in accordance with the “Olympic model,” Chen welcomed all kinds of flags at the competition venues. With that, Kaohsiung set a precedent for upholding the nation’s dignity at international sporting events in Taiwan.
The main stadium in Kaohsiung was described by the New York Times as “a remarkably humane environment” that is “just as intoxicating” as Beijing’s Bird’s Nest.
The opening ceremony was a fusion of the local and the international, of tradition and technology. It displayed Taiwan’s cultural wealth, diversity and creativity and it is likely that the ceremony will leave a lasting impression on the millions of TV viewers who watched it.
KMT city councilors raised various objections during the planning period, and some skipped the opening ceremony. Slack ticket sales before the Games began seemed to indicate that he public was not very enthusiastic either. But once the Games got underway, crowds lined up to buy tickets and the closing ceremony was sold out.
The Kaohsiung City Government and the 7,000 or more volunteers who made the event possible all deserve credit.
The Kaohsiung World Games set a high standard for international sporting events in Taiwan. Next up are the Deaflympics in September in Taipei. The capital should do its best to match the success of the World Games.