By Chia Han Keong
THE inaugural edition of the Universal Chinese Games will open on Nov 11 in Hong Kong - and Singaporean sports enthusiasts are invited to be a part of it.
Organisers of the sports competition targeted at amateur sportsmen were in Singapore yesterday. They were promoting the event as a worldwide gathering to celebrate Chinese sports.
Indeed, many of the 12 sports in the Games are either steeped in Chinese culture (for instance, lion dance, dragonboat racing and Chinese chess) or are popular among the Chinese community (for example, table tennis, badminton and basketball).
However, the organisers are not restricting participation to those among the Chinese diaspora. Indeed, sports enthusiasts from all races and religion are welcome to sign up.
Said the Games committee's deputy president, Madam Chen Zhiwen: "We want this Games to be without borders, even though the sports we chose have a deep Chinese background.
"We have seen people of all races taking part in sports like wushu and Chinese chess, so we are not going to restrict the Universal Chinese Games to just Chinese sportsmen."
She hopes to gather sportsmen from more than 100 countries to take part. The event is the brainchild of Ju Bosheng, chairman of the Universal Chinese Sport Association, which was founded by the Worldwide Chinese Alliance Organisation in 2004.
It has organised several regional sporting events, including one in Singapore in 2007. The most recent one was held in Jakarta last year, involving some 2,000 athletes and officials, as they took part in sports like lion dance and dancesport. These events gave the association the impetus to stage an ambitious Games that plan to bring together sportsmen from all over the world to enjoy the selected sports - without the constraints or pressure of a competition.
"This is not about countries wanting to outdo other countries," said Madam Chen.
"Let's leave the competitive elements to the Olympics.
"We want to make it more of a celebratory atmosphere for the amateur athletes, as well as offer them an opportunity to interact with other like-minded people from other parts of the world."
So far, the organisers have spoken to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, and will be meeting the Singapore Sports Council to drum up support for the Games.
Registration will begin in June and is open to amateur sportsmen of all ages.
However, travel and accommodation during the competition is not provided.
The Games will take place over seven days, and will close on Nov 17 with a mass lion-dance display. Visit www.hyh2009.org for more information.
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