As the host city for the 2017 Universiade, Taipei should seize the opportunity to enhance its international visibility and reputation, experts said at a forum held by Fubon Art Foundation in Taipei.
“The thing that Taiwan needs most right now is a platform to make friends with the rest of the world. International conventions, exhibitions and sports events are important ways to promote Taiwan,” Alliance Culture Foundation chairman Stanley Yen (嚴長壽), who is also popularly known as “the Godfather of the Hotel Industry,” told the forum on Saturday.
Taiwan’s bureaucracy has gradually lost its ability to communicate with international community since the nation lost its UN seat in 1971, Yen added with decades-long isolation from the international community prompting the nation to look inward rather than outward.
“We have become localized,” the travel-industry veteran said. “And yet we have a rich culture and enjoy great freedom. We should understand our strength and show it to the world.”
Organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), the Universiade is a biennial international sporting competition for university students and the second-largest sports event after the Olympics in terms of member nations and number of participating athletes, according to Taiwan’s federation executive committee member, Chen Tai-cheng (陳太正).
More than 12,000 athletes are expected to participate in the 2017 Summer Universiade, Chen added, compared to about 6,000 at the World Games 2009 in Kaohsiung and 3,000 at the Deaflympics in Taipei in 2009.
Chen said, in the final evaluation by FISU’s executive committee, Taipei was able to beat the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, because it won votes in three main categories: political aspects, finances and sporting facilities.
“Taipei won [the political aspects category] by a mere four votes,” the committee member added. “China, Hong Kong and Mongolia voted for us.”
On the issue of sporting facilities, Chen said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last week made it clear that the rule of thumb for the project is “to use existing facilities as much as possible.”
There will be no need to spend NT$2 billion (US$66.7 million) on building a swimming pool for the Universiade, which the Taipei City Government originally planned to do, Chen said, since representatives from FISU have agreed there is an existing pool in the city that meets international games standards.
Regarding the city government’s plan to turn a park in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口) into the athletes’ village for the Universiade, Chen stressed that there would be a “sustainable” re-use of the village which is designed to serve as welfare housing units for locals after the sporting event is over.
“It is like building a new town for the locals,” the committee member said.
However, residents in Linkou reportedly think otherwise. In May, an alliance composed of community colleges, social organizations and local residents launched a petition against the plan, saying it would damage the surrounding natural environment.