Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade opens with dazzling spectacle and political strife

Protesters delayed entrance of athletes into stadium

Preparing to pass on the flame (all photos from CTS broadcast).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade opened in the Taiwanese capital Saturday to the sounds and hues of indigenous music, colorful dancing but also political disruption.

The August 19-30 event is the largest international sports happening ever hosted by the country, and features about 7,700 students from 141 countries and territories.

In the presence of an audience estimated at more than 20,000, artists of various hue presented the diversity of Taiwan’s culture.

In a segment heavy on indigenous symbols and design motifs named “Vibrant Island,” singers Yaga Tunga and Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw, who won the Golden Melody Award for album of the year, brought the typical sounds of Taiwan’s original inhabitants.

At 9:30 p.m., President Tsai Ing-wen declared the Universiade open after a short “Welcome to Taiwan” in English.

“Hybrid Taipei” used huge LED screens to represent life in the contemporary high-tech metropolis, with colorful features like night market stalls and the city’s North Gate. Rock band Boxing brought another indigenous song but on a modern theme, Democratic Taipei, and with a penetrating punk rock sound.

The final section, titled “Global Tribe,” featured a lively solo violin performance by Tseng Yu-chien, the dance piece “Connection through Technology” with Peiju Chien Pott, and superstar Leehom Wang singing “Why Don’t You Just Love Me.”

Symbolizing Taiwan’s image as a hub of the global technology revolution, Wang’s performance was interactive, as members of the public could download an app that turned their smartphones into musical instruments.

The evening closed off with Chen Chin-feng, the first Taiwanese to star in Major League Baseball in the United States, as-it-were hitting a burning ball which curved up to light the Universiade flame.

Earlier on though, the program ran into a delay of half an hour because protesters against the government’s reform of unfair pensions prevented the athletes from entering the stadium for the traditional parade behind national flags.

At first, only the persons holding each flag walked around the stadium, but by the end of the segment, the problem was resolved and the full delegations were able to parade. In his speech, organizer Oleg Matytsin, the president of the International University Sports Federation -(FISU), referred to the incidents by saying that “some things are worth waiting for.”

The interference was widely condemned across the political spectrum, since the Universiade was seen as a rare opportunity to project Taiwan’s image across the world, free from Chinese interference.

As expected, China still played a political part in the event. While the five-star red flag of the People’s Republic of China was present in the parade, nobody walked behind it. The communist government has only allowed Chinese athletes to participate on an individual basis, not as a national team.

The team from Uganda received a warm applause, as in the final week leading up to the ceremony, there had been fears its government would prevent it from attending due to its One China policy.