TAIPEI CITY – In its image as a city of vibrancy and cultural diversity, Taipei enthusiastically reached out with both arms to welcome young athletes from around the world. The 29th Summer Universiade Opening Ceremony on 19 August was a celebration fit for one of the planet’s biggest sporting events.
It just took a while to start as protests for a pension reform outside Taipei Stadium on Saturday night meant the Opening Ceremony of the 29th FISU Summer Universiade was delayed a bit. Hundreds of people were demonstrating in the hours leading up to the ceremonies, meaning a majority of the 144 participating countries were delayed by over half an hour in entering the floor of the 23,000-seat stadium.
However, when the Parade of Nations got going for good, a boisterous and passionate sell-out crowd awaited the more than 7,500 athletes. Not surprisingly, the Chinese Taipei delegation got the loudest ovation.
“Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for,” FISU president Oleg Matytsin said in his official speech. “No one can stop our students.”
Following the event, FISU issued a statement on its social media channels.
The evening’s introduction featured the music of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. There were also appearances by several Chinese Taipei sports heroes, including Mr. Baseball Li Ju-Ming and billiard player Liu Shin-Mei.
After FISU President Matystin and Taipei City mayor Wen-Je Ko made their remarks, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach offered a video message to the athletes. In it, he reminisced of his own memories as a Universiade participant in 1973 in Moscow and 1979 in Mexico City.
“I remember the excitement before the competition, but mostly afterwards,” said Bach, a former fencer. “This is your time to enjoy the sport you love. For many of you the Universiade will be an important milestone in your sporting careers.”
Her Excellency Tsai Ing-wen declared the Universiade open.
A number of cultural dances highlighted the evening, which started with the raising of the host country’s flag. Their themes ranged from traditional to creative. The Vibrant Island dance portrayed a magical island created by two tectonic plates colliding. The island is rich in diversity and life. Hybrid Taipei presented a Taipei that was both honouring its past and embracing its future. Global Tribe positioned. All three of the dances were accompanied by awe-inspiring fireworks displays that lit up the Taipei City skyline.
The night ended with the lighting of the Universiade cauldron. After three torch carriers jogged around the stadium and set it on a platform for Chen Chin-Feng, Chinese Taipei’s first Major League Baseball player. The former Los Angeles Dodger grabbed a baseball bat and swung at the torch, lighting up the cauldron with a fireball and officially opening the games.
For the thousands in attendance, the evening provided a fitting prediction for how the Summer Universiade will progress. There were plenty of fireworks, cheering and excitement, along with some unpredictability.