The Reuters global sports blog
After the globe giggled at Athens in 2004 for letting swathes of Olympics seats go empty, organisers of the far more obscure 2009 World Games in equally obscure Taiwan are doing whatever it takes to pack the venues for such unlikely events as billiards and beach handball. Tug-of-war, anyone?
Whatever it takes, in this case, includes selling seats to China. World Games host city Mayor Chen Chu travelled there on Thursday for a four-day visit, intending to sell the 90 percent of events tickets that are unclaimed so far before the curtain goes up on July 16.
Chen is a leading figure in a Taiwan opposition party that wants formal independence for self-ruled Taiwan, which mighty Beijing claims as its own for historical reasons and has threatened to take by force.
But she’s also “realistic and pragmatic,” to quote Taiwan political scientist Andrew Yang. She knows Beijing can use its authoritarian rule to send hordes of travel-hungry Chinese tourists to the World Games, quickly quashing any Athens-style absenteeism.
2008 was undoubtedly China’s year in the limelight, thanks to the Beijing Olympics. But this year, China’s longtime political and diplomatic rival Taiwan gets the World Games
And it’s not Taiwan’s frenetic, fashionable capital Taipei which will be hosting the event. Instead, the island’s second largest city and one of the world’s busiest ports, Kaohsiung, will be home to the 16-26 July extravaganza.