The World Games in Kaohsiung brought together 5,000 athletes and coaches from 105 countries. The Games not only introduced the world to the honor and enthusiasm of Taiwanese, but also made Taiwan a focus of worldwide attention.
The success of the Games has narrowed the gap between southern and northern Taiwan and the hosting organizations of the upcoming 21st Summer Deaflympics in Taipei have started to feel pressure to put on a good show after seeing what Kaohsiung accomplished with the World Games.
Such competition between the north and south has not occurred for the past 60 years. As an old resident of Taipei City, I feel that if the Deaflympics only has a Chinese feel without showcasing Taiwan’s unique characteristics, or if it has a stronger Chinese than Taiwanese flavor, the Deaflympics will pale in comparison with the World Games and put the capital to shame.
With substantial coverage by international media — at least of the opening and closing ceremonies — the Games brought international recognition for Taiwan.
Both the New York Times and Forbes magazine praised the main stadium as comparing favorably with the Bird’s Nest, which was built for the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Many foreign media outlets also praised Kaohsiung for the hard work that went into planning the Games, as did Ron Froehlich, president of the International World Games Association.
Froehlich praised the enthusiasm and friendliness of Taiwanese as well as the hard work of more than 7,000 workers, including administrative staff, transport providers, medical care staff and language service providers at 23 event locations who worked to ensure the Games were successful.
Even more worthy of attention is the manner in which the ruling and opposition parties worked together to remove obstacles and make it possible for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to open the Games as head of state.
This not only emphasized Taiwan’s sovereignty, but also gave Taiwan greater international exposure. On seeing the flags of each participating country raised as the athletes entered the field, many Kaohsiung residents experienced indescribable excitement and felt that the people of Kaohsiung and the rest of Taiwan were finally part of the international community.
While Taiwan had the home field advantage at the Games, Taiwanese were humble and even held up the team sign and Chinese flag when their official representatives were absent from the opening ceremony and Taiwanese spectators even cheered on the Chinese athletes during competitions.
The various flags on display during the Games showed the openness and diverse nature of Taiwan. At the World Games, the greatest common denominator between the Republic of China (ROC) and the country of Taiwan was “Taiwan.”
Taiwanese who attended the Games showed great tolerance.
Even though some people made their own flags to emphasize Taiwan’s sovereignty, this did not mean that the ROC flag was ignored in fashion.
Everyone gave strong applause when the words “ROC President Ma Ying-jeou” were announced during the opening ceremony.
This shows that ethnic harmony is a natural phenomenon in Taiwan and that the gap between the south and north is being closed.
These are things that politicians cannot interfere with and use to alienate people.
Lu I-ming is the former publisher and president of the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News.