Tue, Jul 28, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Games athletes take home fond memories

FRIENDLY: The coach of the Israeli jujitsu team was impressed with the way the host handled the Games, saying this gave him hope that Israel could host them, too

By Richard Hazeldine  /  STAFF REPORTER

The World Games may have come to an end, but many of the 4,000 or so athletes who visited Kaohsiung to take part in the competitions said they would take away fond memories of the 11-day event.

What stood out in particular for many of the competitors was the friendliness of the locals and their willingness to help.

Andrew St Ledger, a member of the UK Tchoukball team said: “We’ve been treated amazingly by everyone. You have one small problem, you ask someone and within minutes 10 people are there to help you and are so kind and so generous.”

This was not a surprise to men’s nine-ball pool champion Ralf Souquet from Germany, who is well known in Taiwan and has visited on several occasions.

Souquet said in the past he had mostly visited Taipei, but he has also been to Kaohsiung for the World 9-ball championships four years ago and again for a promotional tour about a month ago, although he didn’t have time for sightseeing.

“But this time I’ve been to different locations to watch other sports and I’m quite surprised and quite impressed with what I’ve seen,” he said.

St Ledger was equally impressed.

“You can tell people here are really proud to be hosting the World Games and doing well at it. It’s not just our event, it’s everything I’ve seen so far — the athletes’ night, the catering, the hotels, everything. Stunning,” he said.

Bibas Vidal, coach of the Israeli jujitsu squad, brought three athletes to the World Games purely for the experience. He said the competition went well and was a good opportunity for his team. They didn’t expect to win but came to see the big shots fight and learn how a tournament like this worked.

“If Taiwan can do it, then Israel can do it, too,” he said. “Everyone smiles, wants to help us every place we go. The Taiwanese put on great hospitality and it was very warming to our hearts. I hope I will visit again.”

British 640kg tug-of-war team member Fred Worle agreed.

“The hospitality has been fantastic. Taiwan’s a great country. However, the weather could be a little bit more favorable to us Europeans,” he said.

Teammate Robert Johnson, a member of the UK’s bronze-medal-winning 680kg tug-of-war team, was also happy.

“Very impressed with how we’ve been treated out here. Very nice, friendly people. We’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I think we’ve [been] looked after here better than anywhere I’ve been in the world before, and I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Asked whether there had been any problems, Johnson had only one complaint: “We struggled to find a bar for a drink when we’d finished.”

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