Thursday, July 16, 2009

Open Our Hearts, Welcome Our Guests, Be Good Hosts

Open Our Hearts, Welcome Our Guests, Be Good Hosts
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 16, 2009

The Kaohsiung World Games opened today. Five thousand competitors and visitors from several hundred nations gathered in Kaohsiung. For the Republic of China, this was a rare event. In particular, after endless negotiations, President Ma Ying-jeou confirmed that he would preside over the opening ceremonies in his capacity as head of state. The public would be allowed to bring their own Republic of China national flags and cheer for Republic of China competitors. Citizens of the Republic of China would maintain their dignity on their own home court. These are all things worth celebrating.
Originally the International World Games Association refused to allow President Ma to officiate at the opening ceremonies. It was even rumored that Chang Yu, the PRC government's General Administrator of Sports would officiate, in his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Olympic Committee. For the public on Taiwan, such an arrangement would have been unacceptable. After several months of negotiations, the International World Games Association, the Republic of China Olympic Committee, and the Kaohsiung Municipal Government arrived at a three sided compromise. The International World Games Association agreed to abandon precedent. Ma Ying-jeou would become the first president to preside over the World Games since they were held for the first time nine years ago. In the past, mayors or ministers chaired the event. One might say that during the current World Games the Republic of China established a new world record.

President Ma presided over the opening ceremonies. Members of the public were allowed to bring their own Republic of China national flags and cheer for the Republic of China team, This constituted a break from the rigid Olympic model, and established a new World Games model. This progress was not merely the fruit of efforts by three parties. It was also the result of goodwill on the part of a fourth party. Beijing did not object to the current arrangements. This was tantamount to an endorsement. In the past, Beijing blocked our appearance in international venues. This often provoked resentment on Taiwan. It provided pro-independence elements with a bully pulpit. This time, amidst an atmosphere of cross-Strait peace, the public on Taiwan witnessed with their own eyes Beijing's increasingly pragmatic approach to the World Games.

Kaohsiung is hosting the World Games. Everything it experienced, from competing for the right to host the event, to its planning and its execution, involved a kind of metamorphosis. Japanese architect Toyo Ito designed the main World Games Stadium to look like a soaring dragon, and enlivened the entire stadium district. Together with the newly completed mass rapid transit system, it has turned Kaohsiung into a new city. By hosting an international sports event, Kaohsiung has enhanced its image as a modern metropolis.

Partisan politics have long divided the island North and South. Hosting the World Games in the city of Kaohsiung, under the auspices of the Republic of China, has encouraged the Democratic Progressive Party, which has long rejected the Republic of China national flag, to treat it as their centerpiece. By inviting President Ma to officiate over the opening ceremony, they deserve commendation for transcending their old patterns as a "single party city." This will help bridge differences between North and South, and between Blue and Green.

Above all, the Kaohsiung Municipal Government has transcended the DPP's Closed Door mentality. In order to promote the World Games, Chen Chu was willing to incur the wrath of her own party. She visited the mainland and communicated with the Beijing authorities. She lobbied incessantly with the International World Games Association. She called for the participation of the Repubic of China president, and the display of the Republic of China national flag. Organizing international sporting events requires a broader outlook than partisan infighting. It requires a more diversified outlook than local machine politics. These represent a quantum leap in her level of tolerance and sense of inclusivity.

Kaohsiung harbor is a gateway to Taiwan. The DPP purports to be a "Nativist" political party. Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu is a political figure from the Kaohsiung Incident era. Her background lends her participation in the World Games a special significance. During the opening ceremonies the traditional Chinese demi-god Na Zha entered the arena on a motorcycle. Puppet theater characters greeted the audience. Taiwan greeted the world. The world got a look at Taiwan. The public on Taiwan has long had a provincial worldview. The World Games has helped the public on Taiwan realize that opening one's doors to the world is not easy. One must first open the doors to one's heart.

Highly sensitive political issues such as the use of the Republic of China flag and the Republic of China president have been resolved, Now the question is how to properly fulfill our role as the host. Compared to the highly competitive Olympic Games, the World Games are more like a summer sports festival. The competitive events are lively and full of local color. Because they lack the tense atmosphere of the Olympic Games, competitors can take advantage of the occasion to make friends with each other. Hosting the World Games in Kaohsiung has provided us with an opportunity to promote the Republic of China on the international stage, More importantly it has allowed us to fulfill our role as host. Those who came to compete and those who came to watch were given VIP treatment, winning their friendship. The record breaking expenditure of the World Games, which cost tens of billions of dollars, were not squandered.

The World Games theme song was "I See the World." It symbolizes Kaohsiung's lofty ambitions. Therefore we appeal to the public on Taiwan. Set aside your prejudices. Be a proper host to the World Games. The public on Taiwan may have grievances about the Republic of China national flag and the Republic of China national anthem. The World Games may not be able to address these grievances. But we should at least strive to open the doors to our hearts, and win the friendship of our overseas guests.

2009.07.16 06:14 am










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