Intermittent rain showers beforehand and a boycott by the Chinese team failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd last night as the Eighth World Games got off to a spectacular start at the main stadium in Kaohsiung City.
The Games mark the first time Taiwan has hosted a multi-nation, multi-sport event.
Dazzling lights filled the air above the stadium as the 40,000-strong crowd was wowed by a mesmerizing visual display featuring hundreds of colorfully dressed dancers and performances from a star-studded line-up of singers during the two-and-a-half-hour opening ceremony.
The evening’s proceedings got underway at 7:30pm with a symbolic handover taking place between children from Taiwan and the 2005 host, the German city of Duisburg, before a countdown led into the first of three main performances.
The first performance was themed around nature, featured dancing water droplets, giant eagle kites and dances from Tao and Amis Aborigines. The second section showcased Taiwanese culture, then brought raucous cheers from the audience as the eight generals ba jia zhang entered the stadium on scooters before breaking into a funky dance.
This was followed by a Pi-li puppet display, before the third and final section, entitled “Energetic Kaohsiung,” focused on aspects of modern life in the host city.
Then it was time for the athletes to enter the stadium in alphabetical order, led by the Austrian contingent. But in its absence, the Chinese team was represented by what appeared to be a games staffer holding the Chinese national flag.
The 72-member Chinese team stayed away from the ceremony after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced he would attend in his capacity as head of state.
According to local media reports, the Chinese delegation did not attend the opening ceremony to avoid giving the impression that Beijing authorities recognize Ma’s status as president or Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state. A spokesman for the games said Chinese athletes would compete in the events.
PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES
Asked about her views on the reports, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said that she would respect the Chinese delegation’s decision.
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the 300-strong Taiwan team, who entered last.
Speaking shortly after the teams’ entrance, Chen, welcomed the athletes, before handing the floor to Ma to declare the games officially open.
Then it was time for the stadium to sway as vocal performances by British tenor Russell Watson, Kiwi songstress Hayley Westenra, local diva Tiger Huang (黃小琥) and Shin (信) whipped the crowd into a frenzy ahead of the grand finale, a spectacular six-minute firework display that rounded off the festivities.
The Games will run for 10 days through July 26, featuring more than 4,000 athletes taking part in 31 sports not included in the Olympic Games.
These include the likes of squash, rugby sevens and an assortment of martial arts, as well as more obscure events such as fistball, tchoukball, boules and korfball.
While the Olympics attract international interest because of its star athletes, the World Games events tend to have audiences with more specialized interests, but the Kaohsiung Organizing Committee is hoping that despite this, through cable sports channels such as ESPN, Kaohsiung will gain global visibility.
International sports events have proved to be a sure-fire method of promoting their host cities, and keen to use the opportunities to boost tourism in Kaohsiung, the city government has initiated a series of incentive packages involving local hotels, restaurants and cultural establishments to make the most of the festivities.
Prizes in a series of lotteries to be drawn at the end of the games include an apartment, a car and a variety of cash prizes.
In Taipei, commenting on the non-attendance of Chinese athletes at the opening ceremony, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said that to the best of his knowledge, China’s decision was the result of a brainstorming session between the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and Chinese authorities.
“The two sides discussed the issue frankly and sincerely before reaching that decision,” Wu said, adding that he fully supported the arrangement.
“It’s a wise, goodwill decision that will contribute to harmony and the development of relations between our two sides,” he said.
KMT Legislator Huang Chih-hsiung (黃志雄), a former Olympic medalist, meanwhile, dismissed the need to be concerned about the political implications behind the delegation’s absence.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG AND CNA
‘IRRATIONAL ACTS’: The defense ministry condemned the drills, during which China tested successors to missiles deployed during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995 and 1996 China yesterday fired several Dongfeng ballistic missiles as it began four days of unprecedented military drills off Taiwan proper following US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei the previous day. On Tuesday, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) said Beijing would “take all necessary measures” in retaliation should Pelosi visit Taiwan during her Asia tour. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from 1:56pm to 4pm fired 11 Dongfeng missiles into waters north, east and south of Taiwan proper, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said. Taiwanese armed forces, using “forward warning and surveillance mechanisms,” monitored the missile tests
ANNEXATION PLANS: Remarks by the Chinese ambassador to France showed that Beijing seeks to normalize genocide, re-education and gulags, a US official said European and US officials condemned comments from Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye (盧沙野), after he on Wednesday said that Taiwanese would be “re-educated” after any annexation by China. In an interview on French television, Lu accused the Democratic Progressive Party of “extremist” propaganda and turning Taiwanese against “reunification” with China. “We will re-educate. I’m sure that the Taiwanese population will again become favorable of the reunification and will become patriots again,” Lu told BFM TV. The term “re-education” has been used to describe Chinese authorities’ treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defense Chairwoman
SOLIDARITY: A group of European lawmakers condemned China’s aggressive moves, while the foreign minister of Lithuania said Taiwan ‘cannot become a second Ukraine’ A German parliamentary delegation would visit Taiwan in the first week of October, German lawmaker Holger Becker on Monday told visiting Democratic Progressive Party legislators Fan Yun (范雲) and Lin I-chin (林宜瑾) at the Bundestag in Berlin. Asked by Fan whether he is worried about possible reprisals from Beijing, such as banning him and his family from entering China, Becker said he is more interested in visiting Taiwan, as “now is the time for democracies to stand together.” Fan and Lin also met with German officials to exchange views on digital education and governance. Investing in digital infrastructure and protecting equal rights to
‘SIMULATED ATTACKS’: Ten warships each from China and Taiwan were maneuvering at close quarters in the Taiwan Strait, with some Chinese vessels crossing the median line Taiwan yesterday reiterated that it would not succumb to pressure from Beijing after China carried out its most provocative military drills in decades in retaliation for US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week. “We will never bow to pressure. We uphold freedom and democracy, and believe Taiwanese disapprove [of] China’s bullying actions with force and saber rattling at our door,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday. China had “arrogantly” disrupted regional peace and stability, he said, calling on Beijing to not flex its military muscles. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has also called on the international community to “support