Author: Vlatko Velkoski
Photos: Jelena Chelebic
& Shona Ritchie
25th Summer Universiade, Belgrade, Serbia
July 1 – 12, 2009
When I decided to apply for a volunteering position at Summer Universiade 2009 in Belgrade, I wasn’t quite aware of the size and importance of this event in the world. What is even more odd, however, is that students, especially those who are actively involved in sports, are not always informed of these kind of events, and many of them miss the chance to gain great experience and at the same time promote themselves as promising athletes. Even worse is the fact that state institutions responsible for supporting these kind of activities usually decide not to give financial support to these promising athletes. To illustrate this with an example from Macedonia, which was supposed to be represented by 30 registered students this year, but in the end it was only represented by 3 students.
I’ll leave you room to decide for yourselves how important the Universiade really is. Universiade Belgrade 2009 hosted approximately 9 000 athletes – students from 140 countries in the world, and approximately the same number of volunteers from all around the world. They competed in 15 sports and 208 disciplines in total. Among the athletes competing were most of the Olympic champions from Beijing in gymnastics, fencing, diving, and several other disciplines.
For the athletes and the officials at the Univerisade an Athlete’s Village was built – Belville, with the capacity to accommodate all athletes, with a huge restaurant with hundreds of different dishes, definitely one of the favorite “forbidden” places for us volunteers. Every meter in and around buildings where the athletes were walking, the security followed each movement with the most modern equipment. Just imagine what kind of “sport” skills we, the volunteers, needed to have to manage to get into the places that were banned for us, so when someone would succeed in doing this he/she immediately informed everyone else of the techniques he/she used. A t-shirt of the Brazilian national team was particularly helpful for me.
Let me tell you more about the volunteers at this event. What a life. All international volunteers were accomodated in Studentski Grad in Belgrade and we were literally from every corner of the world. There were people from places ranging from South Africa, across Europe to Russia, from China to the USA and even Australia. The capital of Serbia offered us everything we hoped for. Since the first moment of arrival until departure a lot of friendships were fostered primarily among us volunteers, having fun was inevitable and this often led to many sleepless nights. And here I would like to thank the organizers who really did their best to support us and help us have a pleasant stay. I would like to thank Jelena Celbic who together with her colleagues took really good care of us.
During the day they took us to the beach on Ada, the castle of Kalemegdan and at night at discos on the Danube rafts, discos in the castle and of course a cruise on Danube and Sava spiced with a karaoke party. And for all of those who wanted to have even more fun the final place to be visited was the Russian – Tatar House, a makeshift restaurant offering traditional food and information on Universiade in Kazan 2013. At the end of the night, we gathered in front of the student dormitory having a beer or two and retelling the ?vents of the day.
The first week upon our arrival training for international volunteers was provided, during which our duties were defined. I was involved in the IT sector as technical support, mainly in putting together the pieces or dismantling computers, which gave me a great opportunity to visit almost all sports facilities. Once the Universiade started, I transfered to the Belgrade Fair where competing in fencing, taekwondo, judo, table tennis, gymnastics and others took place. It was a great opportunity for me to learn the rules of play of some of these sports, especially fencing, which is almost extinct as a sport in my country.
This is an experience that every student should have. So all of you students – athletes, young and old volunteers you have the chance to participate at the Winter Universiade in Erzurum, Turkey, Summer Shenzhen in China, then Summer Universiade in Kazan Russia, and a similarly packed events almost every year. To all future participants, I can guarantee you only one thing … lots of fun!