Chinese President Xi declares 31st World University Games open

By Xinhua
On 29 July 2023 at 10:23

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 31st FISU World University Games open on Friday evening at Dong’an Lake Sports Park Stadium in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

Running from July 28 to August 8, the Chengdu Universiade, with the slogan of "Chengdu Makes Dreams Come True", is the first international multi-sport Games being held in China after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overseas leaders attending the opening ceremony are President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani of Mauritania, President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi, President Irfaan Ali of Guyana and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili of Georgia.

Chengdu, a metropolis in southwest China, has become the third city in the Chinese mainland to host the biennial Summer Universiade, following Beijing in 2001 and Shenzhen in 2011.

Although the Universiade was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chengdu has completed the construction, renovation, and expansion of 49 venues and facilities, which boast top-tier infrastructure and service.

A total of 6,500 athletes from 113 countries and regions are competing in 269 events across 18 sports. In addition to 15 compulsory sports, the Chengdu Universiade also features three optional sports - rowing, shooting and Wushu. Host nation China has sent 411 athletes to compete in all 18 sports.

In order to minimize the impact of the pandemic and guarantee the participation of students, FISU raised the maximum age of participants from 25 to 27.

Additionally, a rule that only current students and those who have graduated within one year can participate was relaxed, allowing for the participation of students who graduated in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The opening ceremony started amid the countdown fireworks and the shimmering radiance of "Sun and Immortal Birds", the logo of China Cultural Heritage.

At 21:15 Beijing time when Chinese President Xi declared Chengdu Universiade open, the English "welcome" shaped fireworks exploded into the sky.

The cauldron was lit by Ye Guangfu, China’s Shenzhou-13 Taikonaut, together with other 30 torchbearers, who ran towards the tower with the 12-ray shape of "Sun and Immortal Birds", which depicts people’s aspirations to ascend to the sun and symbolizes light, strength and hope.

In the singing of "Our National Flag Is So Beautiful" by the Children’s Chorus from the Mountainous Area and "Ode to the Motherland" by young representatives from China’s 56 ethnic groups, an eight-man honor guard escorted China’s national flag into the stadium, before it rose amid the national anthem.

All participating delegations marched on along the pass paved with Sichuan brocade patterns.

Spearheaded by flag-bearers Hu Zhenzhuo and Guo Hanyu, the Chinese delegation, consisting of over 700 members entered last as the host nation.

In his speech, Huai Jinpeng, president of the organizing committee of the Chengdu Universiade, extended warm welcome to athletes, coaches, technical officials and guests from around the world, saying that "the FISU World University Games is a global sporting event for youth and friendship, and we have made elaborate preparations, aiming to deliver a streamlined, safe and splendid Games."

"I sincerely wish all our young friends could challenge your limits, strive for your excellence, strengthen the intercultural ties and friendship, and display the charisma of youth here," Huai added.

FISU acting president Leonz Eder expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Chinese government, Sichuan province, Chengdu city and all participants for their joint efforts in creating an outstanding and highly anticipated sports gala.

"Here we are, finally, ready to enjoy this wonderful FISU World University Games in Chengdu. Together, we have created a Games worth waiting for," said Eder.

"We may have a global society now, but the moments when you can live together with so many young people from so many different countries (and regions), even for a short time, are deeply special," the acting president added.

Eder also extended best wishes to all the athletes, saying that "Dear athletes... remember that there is much more to FISU World University Games than your sporting results. Enjoy this precious time alongside each other, learn from one other, make new memories and make new friends."

Beijing Winter Olympic snowboard champion Su Yiming, four-time Universiade table tennis winner Ma Yuefei, and six other outstanding young people entered the stadium holding the flag of FISU.

Athlete Tang Ziting and technical official Liu Jiang made the oath on behalf of their respective groups.

Gala performance of "Young Dream Chasers" was unveiled through segments of Pursuit of Light, Passion of Sports and Celebration of Friendship.

Under the flame, a total of 31 university students gathered joyfully and sang the theme song "Make Dreams Come True", cheering for their friendship to be strengthened further during the Chengdu Universiade.

Party and state leaders Xi Jinping, Cai Qi and Ding Xuexiang attend the opening ceremony of the 31st summer edition of the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province, July 28, 2023. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)