On the afternoon of July 21, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je headed out in 33-degree heat to take part in the filming of a documentary in the city’s Dadaocheng ( 大稻埕 ) neighborhood. The Taipei City Government Department of Information and Tourism and National Geographic Channel were once again cooperating on a project, and the mayor had been invited to give his thoughts regarding municipal construction and the hosting of the upcoming Taipei Universiade. At one point, after being interviewed for almost 2 hours, Ko was asked if he was tired. He laughingly replied: “Not at all.” Not a trace of fatigue could be seen on his face, and behind his smile a serious and focused resolve was in full evidence.
Facing Challenges with a Positive, Proactive Attitude
To successfully stage the largest and highest level sporting competition ever held in Taiwan was decidedly no easy matter. During the interview, Ko was asked whether, with the opening day of the Universiade less than 30 days away, he was losing any sleep. “If I’m sleeping less, it’s not because of the Universiade!” he replied. For a political neophyte like himself, faced with different challenges each and every day, passion and an unconquerable spirit are requisite.
Last year, Ko successfully conquered the “One Day, Two Towers” (一日雙塔) challenge, cycling from Taiwan’s northernmost lighthouse, at its tip, to its southernmost. With the goal of inspiring citizens to engage in sport and exercise, the mayor took personal action, showing that if he could do it everyone could do it. For Ko, the Universiade is one station on the road of life. “Each day I encounter different kinds of difficulties,” he said, “and must maintain a positive and proactive attitude while facing issues and resolving problems.” is has always been his belief, from his work as a physician in the past to today’s work in the political arena.
Even while undertaking meticulous preparations for the Universiade , it was understood that another type of test would be faced should the weather be poor on competition days. Ko stated that the people of Taiwan have always faced the annual incursion of typhoons, and this has helped forge a national character of optimism and unyielding determination.
Transformation – Making a Better Taipei
Taipei is in the midst of a transformation. Surfaces have been re-laid and smoothed along major thoroughfares and arterial roads around Universiade competition venues. Along the way, colorful flowers and plants also vie for the traveler’s attention.
According to Ko, the city of Taipei has carried out widespread planting this year, including over 100,000 azaleas, and he indicated that the next to bloom would be a spectacular sea of flowers in the Guandu ( 關渡) area, making the Taipei landscape ever more beautiful. In addition, the Zhongxiao Bridge (忠孝橋) approach road has been demolished, the North Gate (北門) has been returned to its former elegance and glory, and the Jiancheng Circle (建成圓環) was reopened before the Universiade began. The local culture, made by the people of Taipei themselves, is being showcased to the world.
Speaking directly, Ko stated that, as the appearance of the city changes, its people may not immediately be aware of the transformation afoot. Nevertheless, he believes that each person will at some point realize with a start how this metropolis has changed for the better. “As the city becomes more attractive,” says the mayor, “a sense of pride grows in the hearts of the citizens.” His hope is that the Universiade can reshape and enrich the city’s character, creating a city of glory.