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Taiwan to host World Games
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 13 - 07 - 2008

Move over, Beijing Olympics.
An international sporting event that covers korfball, billiards, dragon boat racing and women's tug-of-war will open in just one year in Taiwan, a rival to mainland China since their split in 1949.
Kaohsiung, a gritty Taiwan industrial city of 1.6 million, is months away from finishing 23 venues, including a giant bowling alley and a bay for life-saving competitions, as host of the 2009 World Games, officials said on Friday.
The World Games will showcase 31 sports that do not make it for the Olympics, but could qualify eventually.
The International Olympics Committee-sanctioned World Games will bring 4,500 athletes from 90 countries to Kaohsiung next summer, giving Taiwan a rare blast of international limelight less than a year after the 2008 Beijing Olympics from Aug. 8-24.
“The sports get exposure, and so do the country and the city,” Ron Froehlich, president of the International World Games Federation said. More than 500,000 spectators have attended past events, he said.
“Everything is rolling and on schedule,” he said.
Because of Taiwan's political isolation from fast-growing economic powerhouse China, the self-ruled island seldom qualifies for international events that originate overseas. It has never held an international sporting event of this scale.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
Kaohsiung won the games bid in 2004 when two would-be competitors were disqualified for lack of basic infrastructure.
“The Games raise our city's name recognition, which will boost tourism, stimulating people from other places to visit,” said Emily Hsu, local chief executive for the games.
Since the World Games began in 1981, the event has taken place in eight other cities, from Finland to Japan.
The July 16-26 Kaohsiung games feature limited-audience sports such as roller-skating, dragon boat races and canoe polo.
Games preparations that began two years ago are expected to cost $79 million, Hsu said. Major venues include a domed stadium with 15,000 seats and another for 55,000 spectators.
A street in Kaohsiung has been named after the World Games, and buildings and public buses are set for facelifts. A subway system opened earlier this year serves the major venues.
Kaohsiung locals aren't sure what to think yet.
“We haven't done as well promoting this as they would overseas,” said Liu Chin-hsing, 17, who works near the stadiums.
Kaohsiung citizens know little about the event due to thin publicity and a lack of world-famous sports, said George Hou, a mass communications lecturer at nearby I-Shou University.
“Taiwanese are like ‘welcome, welcome' because that's their nature, but they're not too clear on the real content,” Hou said.
From Sunday, Kaohsiung will hold its major countdown event, a parade with sponsors, 3,500 performers and the mayor. - Reuters __


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