Despite the mixed reactions to the closing ceremony of the Taipei Summer Universiade on Wednesday evening, one of the highlights was undoubtedly Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) speech.
His speech was impassioned, and supplemented by proper gestures, radiated sincerity and enthusiasm.
Most importantly, it demonstrated a kind of modesty that seems rare at a time when so many politicians are rushing to claim credit for Taiwanese athletes’ record-setting medal count in the Games and for Taipei’s securing the right to host the event.
Ko was showered with praise as Taiwanese quickly accumulated medals during the 12-day Games — placing the nation third in the medal table with 26 gold, 34 silver and 30 bronze medals.
Political analysts also predicted that Taipei’s success as a Universiade host might give Ko’s re-election bid next year a formidable boost.
Nevertheless, in his speech, Ko attributed the event’s success entirely to the athletes, their trainers and numerous unsung heroes, including city government staff, Universiade volunteers and those who bought tickets to see the events.
Ko also gave special thanks to his predecessor, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), whose administration won the bid to host the Games.
Ko’s remarks stood in stark contrast to a recent Facebook post by Hau, in which he subtly insinuated that the reason Taiwanese were able to bag an unprecedented number of medals was due to his administration’s efforts.
“Let me share a little secret about the advantage of being the host city with you... In addition to the required sports listed by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), the host city can submit a selection of sports of its own choosing,” Hau posted on Sunday.
The rules allow host cities to include sports in which their athletes enjoy an advantage, he said, adding that the seven sports his team submitted after a year of careful assessment were the ones in which Taiwanese athletes won the most medals.
Hau’s post attracted an outpouring of criticism, with some netizens denouncing it as a clear attempt to claim credit.
What aggravated the public even more was probably an ensuing op-ed written by former Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), a close aide of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Lo said that Ma also played a crucial role in helping Taipei win the Universiade, because he made 22 calls in two days in 2010 to FISU Executive Committee members to pave the way for the successful bid.
The preposterous fight over who is the hero behind the event sparked an online debate that quickly descended into open mockery.
Netizens have been flocking to the Web site of the Chinese-language United Daily News to vote for “Ma and his 22 phone calls” in an online poll the paper initiated about who should receive the greatest credit for the Universiade’s success.
Ma currently enjoys a landslide lead against the others — Ko, Hau, Universiade athletes, pension reform protesters and the 23 million people of Taiwan.
Netizens have lauded the poll as a clever way of ridiculing Ma, Lo and whoever else attempts to claim credit.
Like most public infrastructure projects, the process to make this year’s Universiade happen required efforts by many people at different times.
A true hero — or statesman in this case — is someone who does the right thing without thinking about public recognition. Those who care more about the latter are anything but heroes.
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