Valts Feldbergs: 29th Summer Universiade in Taipei
After “interesting” thirteen-hour flight and huge jet lag I was finally here, in Taipei. With no idea, what to expect I stepped my foot off the plane and went where signs showed me to go. When some of the long hallways in the airport were gone, a couple of Chinese girls stood there with huge sign – “Participants of Summer Universiade 2017”, which made me understand that we will have an amazing time here in Taipei as everything was created so we would feel good.
In the first week, we got used to the weather and got acquainted with the village and the venues where the competition happened, and of course made friends with the other students. Firstly, the weather was a lot more different than in Latvia as it was +38 in the day and +30 at the night. I needed to get used to that every time I went outside our house. It felt like I walked into Sauna because it took no more than 5 minutes and everyone from Europe was sweaty. However, after a couple of days I got used to that.
Secondly, the Venues were huge. Every sport was in huge halls with over 5000 seats for visitors in each. It felt like Olympic stadiums were brought there for the Universiade. For swimming, we had one competition pool and three other pools for practices. The only bad thing about swimming venues was that the practice pools had very warm water which is not a good thing, as it is a lot harder to train then. What is more, the first week was a great time to get to know the volunteers and the athletes-students which were there from other countries. Every one of these students were one of the friendliest people I have met in my life. Of course, I first made friends with our close neighbours, Lithuanians and Estonians, which were coming from Universities in their own country as well as from Canada and USA. Nevertheless, after some time I also made friends with students from other countries and that usually happened in the enormous food court where all the participants went to eat. Most of the conversations were about cakes and food and which tasted the best and so on but we also had some more serious discussions as well. Mostly in the opening ceremony of the Summer Games.
At the end of my first week there, one of the most exciting events happened – the Opening Ceremony. It gathered most of the delegations and happened in the center of Taipei in their largest stadium. When we got there, we were headed to the Basketball arena next to the stadium where we had some time before the parade of Nations and most of the Students took their pins with them so they could trade them for other country pins. It was an amazing experience as the pin trading was actually a good conversation starter and I had some amazing insights from student-athletes from such countries as Australia, Brazil, Paraguay, Lebanon, USA, Taiwan, Japan, and many others. Everything was great and then the ceremony started and first delegations started heading towards the entrance of the stadium and I was as excited as I could ever get. And then the announcement ruined the evening. The announcer said that a riot was happening outside and we won’t be able to go to the stadium due to the security risk. Most of the delegations were devastated. However, after some time the announcer talked again and this time the news was a lot more positive as the rioters were distinguished and the site was secure. We finally went out in the stadium and the view amazed me as it was full of Taiwanese people in the stands which were cheering at their highest voices. I was feeling amazed, it was indescribable.
The next day the swimming competition started and the most important week of the trip started as well. I had to be focused all the time. Many of the best swimmers in the world were here and I had to compete with them. It was scary and yet so exciting as I could learn a lot from them and from myself and get the experience of a lifetime. Every event that I swam was a challenge I had to face. And in the end, in most of the events I participated in, I swam my best time which made me believe in my strength. The week of competition was one of the best weeks of my life and it has made me speechless about it as I gained so much experience I just cannot describe.
In the last week, the competition was finally over and I got a chance to travel to the most popular places in Taiwan. I visited most of the popular places and that was just amazing. I am sure that pictures will describe a lot more than my words. All in all, the trip was amazing and I would suggest everyone to take part in University Summer Games as it is the second largest sporting event after Olympics and the largest student gathering event in the World. The experience you get there is priceless and the people you meet may become your friends for a lifetime.