Shenzhen 2011, Day 3: An experience of a lifetime

Today was the opening ceremonies of the 2011 FISU Summer University Games in Shenzhen, and I am still blown away.

As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to walk out as part of the Canadian delegation, which was 349 people strong, entering a stadium of 20,000 screaming fans through a wall that parted after being the stage for a light show/dance routine. And that was just the beginning.

Aside from maybe the number of people in the stands, this ceremony rivaled any Olympic opening ceremonies I’ve ever seen. Every athlete I talked to was speechless as they entered the massive stadium to cheers and flashing lights, as almost 12,000 athletes, coaches and officials were paraded in front of the raucous crowd.

As much as I hate to say this, that experience of walking into the stadium, with Team Canada, is almost indescribable. I just remember looking around wide-eyed, goofy smile on my face the entire time, trying to soak it all in.

If I can (once again) get a little self-absorbed, that was truly one of, if not the most incredible experiences of my life and not one I’ll soon forget.

But enough about me, the ceremony itself was a fine follow-up to what Beijing did for the Olympics in 2008. The performances involved about 8,000 Chinese youth and young adults and ranged from glow in the dark bike riders to a young girl playing the violin on a piece of the stage that slowly rose on angle, putting her what must have been 30 feet in the air.

The ceremony was incredible, and once again the people of Shenzhen made it that way. The crowd was not only sold out, but also clearly having fun, cheering for every nation that came into the stadium, with obviously the most deafening of roars being reserved for the Chinese delegation.

When I step back and think that all this has been done for a sporting event that only involves university athletes, I have to think, we need to change our attitude in Canada. The way Shenzhen is treating these games is truly akin to the way a city would embrace hosting the Olympics. How great would it be, not only for the ever-suffering popularity of university sport in Canada, but also for a city like Edmonton (who actually just lost out on a bid for the 2015 Winter Games), or hell, even Toronto to have this kind of atmosphere.

Sorry the post is a little short. Long day. And somehow, the time difference is still affecting me.