Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lessons Learned from the World Games and Deaflympics (Taiwan Business Topics)

Last year, Taiwan hosted the first large-scale, multi-sports events in its history. The Eighth Edition of the World Games, held in Kaohsiung from June 16 to June 26, was considered an unqualified success. Some 4,421 athletes, judges, and officials from 103 countries took part, and with the possible exception of a few female athletes from Brazil sunbathing topless on a city beach, local media could find no fault with the extravaganza.

Just 10 weeks after the World Games closed, the 21st Deaflympics opened in Taipei. The event certainly bolstered civic pride and raised awareness of deaf issues, but was marred by transportation grumbles and allegations that the needs and opinions of the hearing-impaired were sometimes ignored.

Given the time and resources poured into organizing these two major international events, government officials and members of the tourism industry undoubtedly hope that they represent just the beginning of a long string of such activities to be held in Taiwan. What can be learned from the World Games and Deaflympics experience to help smooth the way for similar future events?

Ron Froehlich, president of the International World Games Association, expresses both the uneasiness he felt in the run-up to the Kaohsiung event and his satisfaction at the Games' conclusion. “Prior to the games we of course weren't sure what to expect, as we were dealing with so many different stakeholders, from the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee to the Sports Affairs Council (SAC), the Ministry of Education, and Kaohsiung City Government. Being an unknown, this was indeed a weakness,” he said by email. But he quickly added that “there is very little that could have been done better and Mayor Chen Chu is to be complimented on the way the city participated and made it such a big event for the citizens of Kaohsiung.”

Froehlich especially praised the sports plaza, where athletes and spectators could try local foods and enjoy cultural performances, as an “enormous success, not only for all the visitors but also for the citizens of Kaohsiung.” He was also complimentary regarding the training and quantity of the volunteers, and noted that “transportation from the airport to the accreditation centers to the hotels to the meal centers as well as the venues was very well organized.”

In the days before the Games began, slow ticket sales were a concern. Eventually 283,151 tickets (72.9% of those available for sports events and the opening and closing ceremonies) were sold, and of the 37 different sports, 29 sold out...

The complete article appears in the April issue of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei's monthly magazine, and is also on their website.

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