– Imagine having the honour to participate in the Opening Press Conference of the first major international multi-sport event taking place in your hometown on your birthday. Chinese athlete Yanni Wu had this experience on Friday, July 28. Even more interesting is the fact that this long-awaited event, the Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games, opens today as well, at the Dong’an Lake Sports Stadium, and Yanni Wu, a four-time national 100m hurdles champion, hopes to “realise her sporting dream”, like the slogan of the Games state: “Chengdu makes dreams come true”.
MEMORABLE OPENING Wu, a Sichuan native, is one of 6,500 student-athletes from 113 countries that have converged on the Land of Abundance, the capital of Sichuan Province, for this two-week sporting festival. The giant countdown clock of the Games, standing at the heart of the city, is quickly ticking down, and after a few days of rain, the sun is out today for the Opening Ceremony of Chengdu 2021.
With a smile on his face, the Acting President of FISU, Leonz Eder, acknowledged the bright, blue sky during the press conference, in anticipation of a memorable start to the Games. As announced by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, the President of the country Xi Jinping will attend the ceremony alongside other world leaders.
POWER OF SPORTS Eder said the name, Chengdu 2021, which was retained despite the event being postponed twice, is “a reminder of everything we have been through this past year” and “a reminder of the power of sports to overcome”. He appreciated the Chengdu 2021 organisers for delivering a “simple, safe and splendid Games”.
YOUTHFUL DREAMS The theme of youthful dreams will be explored during the Opening Ceremony of the Games tonight, according to Rongsheng Xian, the vice Mayor of Chengdu, who added that the Games will benefit the passionate 21 million people of Chengdu, of which 9.4 million participate regularly in exercises. Xian also explained that most of the 20,000 volunteers at Chengdu 2021 were recruited from universities, including 35 Chengdu Universities.
GIVING BACK The Chinese 100m hurdle athlete, Wu, a Beijing Sports University graduate student, participated in the Flames Relay and now hopes she will be able “to give back to this land that nurtured me”. The 26-year-old has put the disqualification in the 100m hurdles final of the recent Asian Athletics Championships held in Bangkok, Thailand behind her and is looking forward to “a performance to my homeland” in Chengdu – “a good performance that can influence the development of the next generation”. She added: “I grew up living in a county so I never expected that at 26 I would be a student and a good athlete. I’m lucky that today is not only the Opening Ceremony, it’s also my birthday.”
UNIQUE CHARM On the side, she would not mind being a tour guide as she hopes that visitors are able to immerse themselves in the “unique charm and splendour” of Chengdu, as the vice Mayor described. German swimmer Henning Bennet Mühlleitner attested to the warm welcome he and his compatriots received from the volunteers on arrival in Chengdu and is looking forward to more “enjoyable experience” in Chengdu, while also reminding that the Rhine-Ruhr region of his country will host the next edition of the Games.
SETTING THE PACE Eder boasted that the success of the Beijing 2001 Universiade paved the way for the Olympic Games in Beijing seven years later and he is proud that FISU is now setting the pace again in another fast-developing sports city. Already on the schedule for Chengdu in 2025 is the 12th edition of The World Games. “The 49 world-class venues are part of the legacy of these Games,” he said.
MORE THAN READY Eric Saintrond, FISU Secretary General-CEO, who has experienced 18 FISU Games Opening Ceremonies praised the exceptional quality of the Games hosted by mainland China: Beijing 2001, Shenzhen 2011 and now Chengdu 2021. “Chengdu is more than ready. They were already ready in 2021. They kept the venues unused to make sure that they remained perfect for this year, and continued to improve the quality of the Games Village.”
Today is the second day of competition at the Games. Student-athletes from all over the world will participate in 18 sports and 269 events on the competition schedule. There are 3,512 male athletes and 2,988 female athletes competing. Athletics, swimming, taekwondo and fencing have the highest number of athletes.
Credit: AIPS Media