An unforgettable sporting experience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 12:00am

The 47 students selected to represent Hong Kong at the Summer Universiade in Turkey can expect an unforgettable experience and a unique opportunity to meet young people from 170 countries.

More than 6,000 student athletes from around the globe will travel to host city Izmir this week to take part in the world's second biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics.

The biennial games, which run from tomorrow until August 21, have a distinguished pedigree. Celebrated Olympic medallists such as American sprinter Michael Johnson and British javelin thrower Steve Backley competed in the past.

'The Universiade is one of the most prestigious international sporting events,' said Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, head of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.

'It is an excellent opportunity for our young athletes to compete with some of the world's best, and cultivate friendships,' he said.

The athletes will compete in state-of-the-art facilities, as Izmir has upgraded 38 venues and built eight new ones. The competitions in 10 sports will take place at 60 venues.

The opening ceremony at the 55,000-capacity Ataturk Stadium promises a 'magnificent event, utilising every contemporary technological advance', according to the official games website. Thousands of volunteers from high schools and universities will be involved.

A carefully choreographed dance routine will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display, and the Universiade flame will be lit. The visiting athletes will play a starring role, too.

National delegations will parade their flag around the stadium before gathering in the centre of the field.

Swimmer Sherry Tsai will be taking part in her second Universiade. She carried the Hong Kong flag during the opening ceremony two years ago in Daegu, South Korea.

'It was a fantastic experience taking part in the games, and I can promise the athletes who are going to this Universiade that they will never forget it,' Tsai said.

Medal glory was only a fantasy for Hong Kong athletes two years ago. The volleyball and basketball teams were outclassed, and there was nothing to celebrate in the pool or on the track.

The California-based Tsai came closest to success. She qualified for the finals of all three events she entered.

This time could be different. Many of the games-bound athletes have represented Hong Kong in international competitions.

The territory will compete in eight sports - windsurfing, swimming, tennis, athletics, men's volleyball, fencing, archery and taekwondo.

Delegation head Patrick Chan says this is the strongest squad Hong Kong has ever sent, and it has realistic medal hopes in windsurfing, tennis and fencing.

'About 80 per cent of the squad are national team members so we are much stronger than before,' he said.

'I think our strongest chance for a medal is in windsurfing, where Vicky Chan [Wei-kei] has proved she is one of the best in the world.'

The event comes under the Hong Kong Sports Institute's cash incentive scheme, and $250,000 will be awarded to a gold medal winner, $125,000 for silver and $50,000 for bronze.