100 days to go, China ready to stage splendid Universiade
Chengdu, known as the hometown of giant pandas, is set to impress the world once again. This time, the spotlight isn't solely on the adorable animals, but also on an extraordinary world-class sporting event.
The 31st International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer World University Games, which was postponed twice due to COVID-19 concerns, is scheduled to occur from July 28 to August 8 in the capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.
With 100 days remaining until the opening ceremony, Chengdu is preparing to showcase an international sports event infused with unique Chinese characteristics.
"Chengdu is truly ready, and the organizing committee has done everything possible to welcome athletes from around the world," said FISU acting president Leonz Eder during the Heads of Delegation (HoD) Meeting held last month in the city.
All set for the games
Chengdu will become the third city on the Chinese mainland to host the biennial Summer Universiade, following Beijing in 2001 and Shenzhen in 2011.
The city has constructed 13 new venues and facilities while renovating 36 existing ones for the University Games. All sports facilities, including the Dong'an Lake Sports Park where the opening ceremony will take place, were put into use by April 2021.
The Chengdu Universiade Village, located on the campus of Chengdu University, can accommodate approximately 11,000 people. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, it offers top-notch services in catering, fitness, commerce, leisure, and cultural exchanges.
FISU Secretary General and CEO Eric Saintrond described the Games Village as "one of the best we've ever had."
From broadcasting to security and from transportation to medical services, a wide range of new technologies like 5G, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence have been employed to create a smart Universiade.
A collection of charming robots named Rongbao, after the Games' mascot, will provide various services, including navigation, translation, and enquiries.
Over 1,700 new energy buses, decorated with eye-catching images of Rongbao, will serve as public transportation during the Games. The buses come with a Chinese and English broadcast system, making it more convenient for international visitors.
"Chengdu is more than ready to host a fantastic FISU Games this summer," said Hannah Schafer, event coordinator of the German University Sports Federation (ADH), after the HoD Meeting.
To prevent university students from losing their qualifications due to the event's postponement, the FISU has adjusted the registration regulations. College athletes who met the qualifications in 2021 can also participate in the Chengdu Universiade this year.
Embracing the FISU's motto of "Excellence in Mind and Body," the Summer University Games integrates educational and cultural aspects, encouraging student-athletes worldwide to combine top-notch sports performance with intellectual pursuits.
During the Games, the organizers plan to arrange a series of sporting and cultural activities, such as observing giant pandas and enjoying Sichuan Opera, to highlight the host city's unique features.
Student-athletes around the globe are eager to take part in the Games.
UniSport Australia announced that it will send a team of up to 150 athletes to Chengdu. "The World University Games offer a fantastic opportunity for student-athletes to compete at the elite level in a multi-sport event," said Carrie Graf, former Olympic championship-winning coach who will lead the Australian team.
David Knopp, vice head of the US delegation, also expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming event. "We hope to bring two of our best basketball teams from the university level in the United States. They're excited to compete here," Knopp said.
Chinese swimming star Zhang Yufei revealed her desire to explore the city's scenery and cuisine. "I love spicy food, so I'm eager to visit Chengdu for the Sichuan cuisine, and the pandas are a must-see for sure."
"I would also like to exchange ideas on sports with local youths, as the Chengdu 2021 FISU Games serves as a valuable platform for communication," she added.
The people of Chengdu are also welcoming the event with great hospitality. "Young people like me are looking forward to the Summer Universiade," said Zhao Yuxi, a student volunteer from Sichuan University.
Zheng Bei, vice president of the Games' organizing committee, told a press conference on Wednesday that around 20,000 volunteers have been recruited for the Games, and over 1.3 million have signed up to be volunteers in the city.
There will be 1,000 volunteer service spots around the venues, park greenways, transportation hubs, and commercial areas to offer comprehensive services during the Games, said the organizers.
"The event will undoubtedly be an important part of my university years, and I will do my best to contribute to a splendid Games through my volunteer work," Zhao said.
Cradle fo future stars
The FISU World University Games is held every two years in different cities. This celebration of international university sports and culture brings together thousands of student-athletes to compete, making it one of the world's largest multi-sport events.
The Chengdu 2021 Universiade will feature 269 events across 18 sports. In addition to 15 mandatory sports, the Games also includes three optional sports — rowing, shooting, and Wushu.
From legendary sprinter Michael Johnson to basketball superstar Larry Bird and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang, the World University Games has been the birthplace of many world-renowned sports personalities.
Wang Jiayi, vice president of the organizing committee, said on Wednesday that the Chinese delegation is expected to consist of over 800 members, including around 500 athletes, with the aim to participate in all events.
There are young athletes ready to follow in the footsteps of established stars. Olympic parallel bars gold medalist Zou Jingyuan, a Sichuan native, is among the athletes to watch at the upcoming Universiade.
"I hope university students from around the world come to Chengdu and experience the culture, whether it's about cuisine or touring," said Zou during China's National Gymnastics Championships recently held at the Dong'an Lake Sports Park.
"I hope they can feel the passion from the people here."