The World Games 2009 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Taiwanese are of course excited about this and years ago, many would have never dreamed of having this kind of international events in Taiwan.
Reading the bidding history, one can see that the man who led the team and coordinated all the efforts to make this possible was the former Premier and former Kaohsiung Mayor, Frank Hsieh. On 27 May, Hsieh said a bit more about how he managed to avoid the Chinese sabotaging Taiwan’s effort and won the bid in the end on his radio programme. He said that he learned from past experience.
In the past, when Taiwan was preparing to bid for major international events, the authority or staff on the projects were not quiet and careful enough, which gave China the time and opportunity to make their move and use their political influence against Taiwan in the decision making or voting process. Before bidding for the World Games 2009, he had actually tried another international event first but failed for the same reason. Kaohsiung initially won by one vote but China heard of it and immediately persuaded some members who were absent on the day to show up and vote against Taiwan (in favour of another country). Taiwan then lost the bid.
When it came to the World Games, with the support from the DPP administration, Hsieh kept his cool and made sure that everyone on board remained low key until it was confirmed that Kaohsiung won the bid. Hsieh said that he was grateful for the support and understanding from the president, officials and several members of the International World Games Association (IWGA).
Hsieh went on to explain that a few years back, there were no proper sports arena, stadium and facilities for world class sports competitions in Taiwan. Kaohsiung, as a city, at that time did not look attractive either. So he and his colleagues put in a lot of efforts to make sure that the city was reinvented based on his belief in putting the environment and the culture first. He also made sure that the construction work went according to plan and got the support from the DPP central government. One of the projects that make Kaohsiung stand out is that the stadium is eco-friendly as the roof has been fitted with solar panels, reducing 660 tons of annual carbon dioxide output, and all the raw materials are 100% reusable.
However, when the DPP’s President Chen Shui-bian was still in office, the Chinese Nationalist Party used their majority in the Parliament and the City Council to freeze their budget and accused Hsieh and his colleagues of corruption. The blue friendly media also went to town with it. (Hsieh and his colleagues have gone through the legal challenges and were either not prosecuted or cleared of the charges. Hsieh is now suing those who continue to call those projects corruption). Luckily, the construction company was willing to carry on with the work and get paid later. After Hsieh became the Premier in 2005, he also made sure that Kaohsiung got the resources it needed within his remit.
Over the four years after winning the bid, Kaohsiung has seen four different Mayors. In February 2005, Hsieh became the Premier in the mid of his second term as the Mayor. He handed it over to the acting mayor, Chen Chih-mai. Unfortunately, Chen stepped down after seven months when his father was implicated and later charged in a corruption case. As a result, Yeh Chu-lan took over from Chen and stayed until the 2006 Kaohsiung Mayor election which DPP’s Chen Chu won. This series of changes caused some anxiety in IWGA but Hsieh reassured them that the DPP central government would make every effort to ensure the Games go ahead as planned.
This event should be something that all Taiwanese can feel proud of and the government (a normal one) should see this as an excellent opportunity to connect with the international community. However, after Ma took office and the Chinese Nationalist Party was in power (they now have an overwhelming majority in the Parliament), the Sports Affairs Council in the Executive branch of the government ignored the amount allocated to the World Games 2009, already passed by the Parliament and cut the budget by 27%. The amount giving to the whole event was only marginally more than what has been given to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Deaflympics Taipei 2009 alone.
I don’t know on what legal basis a ministry under the executive branch of the government could change or ignore what has already been passed by the legislative branch. With only about a month away from the opening ceremony, the current mayor Chen Chu had to go to the press and tell the public about how the Ma administration was still putting obstacles to the World Games in Kaohsiung. Critics doubt this was just a petty partisan move. Some suspect that the Ma administration actually intends to reduce the visibility of Taiwan and avoids upsetting Beijing.
Despite all the difficulties, this event is going ahead. I don’t know what Hsieh thought might happen to the games if Taiwan had a KMT president in 2009 but he did say that when he was working on the whole project, he often worried about a typhoon hitting Taiwan on the day of the opening. I hope everything goes well and there’s a lot of interest in and support for this event.