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On the Road: At the 29th Summer Universiade in Taipei

Logan traveled to Taiwan to explore the Summer Olympics for University athletes

· University Tour,Travel

Tour reflection about Logan's trip to Taipei, Taiwan from August 21st - August 31st, 2017

When I first heard about the Summer Universiade, I wasn't sure exactly what to think: is it the Olympics? Is it the international NCAA Championships? Online, it looked like a well respected international sporting event but it was hard for me to find anyone from the U.S. who knew this kind of event existed.

I first traveled to Taipei in May and I was surprised to see the city promoting the upcoming games all over town. The host city seemed very excited to showcase their country and culture to visitors from all over the world. I booked my tickets to the Universiade after I saw that several American university teams would be representing Team USA: University of Iowa baseball, Purdue men's basketball, Maryland women's basketball, and University of Houston track and field.

Team USA seemed to have their event staffing and problem-solving covered, so I traveled to Taipei as a fan, eager to see what the Universiade were about. I ended up mainly watching men's basketball and track and field because both competition venues were close to my hotel. I also got to be a track nerd again for a few days, purchasing the 5-day ticket to all track and field events ahead of time. Here are a list of key takeaways from trip to the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei:

1. An enthusiastic host city makes a difference

Taipei showed up: both in terms of facilities and fans. I can't speak for all of the events since I only made it to basketball and track and field but I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. From a fan perspective, the track and field night sessions were sold out on the final two days and I had to queue for two hours to snag tickets to the gold medal game for men's basketball. In terms of facilities, the basketball arena was run efficiently and had plenty of security and bathrooms to handle the crowds. I also loved that it was right next to the track and field stadium, which I learned later was not the original stadium Taipei had planned to use. Years ago, the city started construction on a new arena to host the Games but due to construction problems, it wasn't finished in time. Regardless, everywhere I went the city seemed to be filled with an excited energy to be hosting the Games and numerous times, I was asked by people from Taipei where I was from and if I was an athlete at the Games.

2. You get to watch a variety of levels of competition

From Olympic gold medalists to competitive high school level athletes, the Games provide a stage for everyone to participate. It was interesting to see which countries treat the Universiade as a championship compared to other countries that treat it as just another competition. For example, Poland sent several of their world champion caliber track and field athletes, despite many having competed at World Championships the week before in London. In comparison, there were just a handful of athletes from Croatia, a country known to dominate in the field events. On the far side of the spectrum, Chinese Taipei athletes did not disappoint the home crowd. They took gold in the 100m dash and men's javelin in front of packed stadiums and screaming fans, who acted like they'd just won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

3. Fans need to plan and prioritize certain sports ahead of time

The Summer Universiade and the Olympics are a different kind of animal for sports fans to conquer. They are popular and serve a variety of sports, making it important for you to prioritize what you want to see and how you will do that. I only purchased my track and field tickets ahead of time, knowing I didn't want to miss any of the action. I also booked a hotel that was strategically close to the stadium to cut down on daily travel time. The day before I left for Taipei, I scoured the various sports schedules to find competitions that would fit around the track schedule. Since track went morning sessions from 9am-1pm and afternoon sessions from 4pm-10pm, it left me little time to trek out other sports venues. The baseball stadiums seemed to be located on the outskirts of the city, with similar situations for gymnastics, volleyball, and swimming. If you're looking to experience a variety of sports, be sure to plan your time accordingly and become familiar with your transportation options. I don't regret watching basketball and track and field but I definitely could have maximized my time with a little more strategic planning.

4. If you want to work at the Games, look at opportunities with the host city or your country's delegation.

I had first looked at the Games as a work opportunity, as Taipei posed the same challenges that my clients face on their tours in China. However, the big difference between the Universiade and a typical China tour was the focus and effort put into the teams and athletes' experience by both the country's delegation and host city. Most teams were assigned a liaison or fixer who spoke Mandarin and was able to help them get around and navigate any daily needs. The athletes' structured competition schedule takes up most of their time abroad, leaving little room for cultural exploration outside of the athlete village. The team fixers were appointed by the Taipei host committee and most teams brought their own media and event coverage teams from home.

A few other random notes from my trip to Taipei:

  • Watching elite athletes can inspire you to workout more - shout out to Feng Crossfit for hosting me during my trip to Taipei.
  • Taking time to go offline can get your creative juices pumping - I came up with a few other exciting business ideas while I was waiting for different events to start and got to put a major dent in reading the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. 
  • Enjoy your business trips with a side of fun - I explored a few night markets in Taipei, famous for their delicious street food and quick eats and I don't regret it.
Overall, the Summer Universiade was a great experience. I cheered on Team USA, geeked out over world class hammer throwers, drank my weight in bubble tea, and, learned a little more about the scale and scope of putting on an international multi-sport event.
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