The Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games (WUG) were held in Chengdu, China, this year after having been rescheduled following the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to 2021, due to COVID-19. Taking place from 28 July to 8 August 2023, the WUG saw university athletes compete in 18 different sports.
A contingent of 121 student athletes from seven universities represented Singapore at Chengdu WUG, including 12 SMU athletes, who represented Singapore in badminton and shooting, among other sports. Team Singapore won a silver in Wushu, the third time that Singapore has won a medal at WUG.
As the Chair of the Singapore University Sports Council (SUSC), SMU had the responsibility to liaise with the International University Sports Federation (FISU), as well as the host country’s organising body for the WUG. SMU was also in charge of a whole slew of logistical and administrative matters.
A harrowing logistical puzzle
One of the most challenging areas that SMU oversaw as Chair of the SUSC was making the visa and travel arrangements for all athletes, as well as the supporting staff, coaches and officials for the team.
This proved to be especially challenging given that visa restrictions were still in place for Singaporeans due to China’s COVID-19 restrictions. The long list of people applying for their visa, tremendous processing time and unexpected difficulties like applications getting rejected because of tiny, unforeseen errors added to the challenge.
“Due to the tight timeframe, we had to seek the assistance of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore’s Consulate-General in Chengdu, and the Chinese Embassy in Singapore to expedite approvals in order for us to travel in time at the start of the Games in Chengdu,” shares Jimmy Ye, Director of SMU’s Office of Student Life, wryly pointing out the irony of the whole situation – that these restrictions were removed the day after his flight to China on 25 July.
“Thankfully, China has restored the normal visa-waiver programme for Singaporean tourists, because Chengdu is a beautiful city worth visiting, for sure.”
The spirit behind sporting events
Despite having to be postponed, the WUG proved to be a great opportunity for student athletes to get a sense of their personal level in comparison to their counterparts on the world university stage in sports such as swimming, water polo, shooting and many more.
There were also many valuable lessons and experiences to be gained by participating in such competitive events. Regardless of the results, sports brings people and countries together regardless of language or culture, and opens the door to forming connections and friendships that extend across borders.
“The key lesson I took away from this adventure is that the pursuit of victory isn’t the only path to enjoyment,” shares national shooter Ho Xiu Yi, who is a student at SMU’s School of Social Sciences and was selected to be the Flagbearer for the Singapore Contingent for the Opening Ceremony march.
“Over my decade as a competitive athlete, the atmosphere has often been marked by intense competition and unwavering seriousness. However, immersing myself in the diverse world of athletes from various sports and countries also provides a refreshing perspective.
“It’s a reminder that the joy of sports extends far beyond just winning, and the connections forged in the spirit of competition are equally, if not more, rewarding. Even though I didn’t win, this competition undoubtedly etched itself as the most unforgettable one in my memory.”