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Universiade will be taking place in China this year.
courtesy Sullivan/Flickr

Student-athletes go to Universiade

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Student-athletes from around the world will be gathering in Shenzhen, China for one of the world's largest athletic competitions -- second only to the Olympics in size.

Shenzhen, located directly north of Hong Kong, will be the host to Universiade. This year 10,000 athletes will compete Aug. 12-23. In order to qualify, an athlete must be in post-secondary school or have graduated the year proceeding the competition.

With the Universiade just around the corner, final preparations are being put in place. Marc Vandenplas, International University Sports Federation Summer Universiade director, has flown to Shenzhen for final inspections before athletes begin to arrive.

"Shenzhen has prepared for this event for four years," he said. "The number of teams participating in team sports exceeds the number of those who competed in the Olympics. Because of this, they had to build or renew many training venues. Many experts with the Beijing Olympic games have joined the organizing committee during the last months."

Athletes will be competing in 24 sports, including swimming, soccer, and basketball.

Shenzhen has put new infrastructure in place in preparation for the event, including several new metro lines.

At a press conference at Shenzhen's Wuzhou Hotel on July 14, Shenzhen municipal party committee secretary Wang Rong said he is nervous but that Shenzhen is ready to host the world.

"The whole city is looking forward to achieving the core principle of the Universiade," said Wang. "Start here, make a difference!"

He said the Universiade centre and Universiade villages that have sprouted in Shenzhen for the competition have become new symbols of the city.

Shenzhen was chosen to host the 26th summer Universiade, beating out Poland, Russia, Taiwan and Spain. To date, Shenzhen is the youngest city to host a Universiade. It has been established as a city for only 26 years. Despite the young age of the city, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and Vandenplas said he is happy with the city's preparation.

"The [decision] is made after the visit by a commissioner and the vote of the FISU Executive Committee."

Not all, however, were excited about the prospect of Shenzhen as a host city.

In an article released in the China Daily on April 13, Shen Shaobao, a spokesman for the Shenzhen municipal police, said that over 80,000 people who "pose a threat" for the upcoming Universiade had been evicted in a 100-day police crackdown. Among those evicted were immigrants without proper employment and tenants who failed to produce proper renting documentation.

Ex-cons, suspected drug users and those reported to take part in abnormal activities or have suspicious incomes fall into the category, said Shen.

The issue sparked outrage from a few individuals who expressed their concern on blogs about the legitimacy and rationality of the police action.

"The move is both illegal and inhumane. How could they label someone as 'high-risk,' and based on which law could they evict people?" said a blogger with the pseudonym Xuxiaonian on Weibo, a Twitter-like website.

Despite protest, the Universiade will proceed as planned and athletes are training to showcase their skill.

Vandenplas said that many resources will be available for athletes once they arrive in Shenzhen.

"Shenzhen hopes to be the best Universiade ever organized but also to appear the most innovative one," he said. "Shenzhen wants to be known worldwide and the organization of the Universiade is one of the means used to reach this goal."

Fourth-year U of C business student Samuel Effah is training for the 100-metre dash as part of Canada's track and field squad, consisting of 19 female and 18 male student-athletes from 21 participating CIS universities. Effah is the reigning two-time champion of the 100 metres and is competing in his second Universiade.

"I obviously went for the win," Effah said of his first Universiade. "It was my first international competition, but without experience it was hard, so for this one I hopefully will bring home a medal."

With the London Olympics in close sight, athletes like Effah have a steady focus for the future.

"I have been with the same coach since I started in 2006. My training has been pretty much the same, but honestly it's just really good training to prepare for London. [Training] has been my main focus and a stepping stone towards London next year," he said.

Amonn Nelson, a U of C kinesiology student is also on the track team with Effah. Over 12 U of C students will be participating in Universiade in swimming, archery, soccer, and basketball.

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