Pandas steal hearts at Chengdu Universiade

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The Panda is more than just the origin of the tournament mascot Rongbao. It is also the symbol of China's Sichuan province and has become the most frequently mentioned word by participants at the 31st FISU World University Games.

International athletes participating in the 31st FISU World University Games visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan province on July 31, 2023. The base, located in the northern suburbs of Chengdu, is home to more than 230 giant pandas. The mascot for the games, Rongbao, is based on a giant panda named Zhima from the base. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/China Daily]

"It is my first time in China; everything is new to me, and I want to see the pandas," said Hungarian swimmer Eszter Szabo.

"I really love China. I think it is a good place, and people here are very friendly. Besides, I know that China is famous for pandas, but I have never seen them before," said Elzhana Taniyeva from Kazakhstan, who won two silvers in the individual ball and ribbon competitions of rhythmic gymnastics.

Zohra Aghamirova from Azerbaijan has grabbed two silvers in the individual clubs and the individual hoop events of rhythmic gymnastics, respectively. "I like the panda mascot for medalists. I also hope to explore Chengdu, but I'm afraid that I will not have enough time," she said.

Fanni Pigniczki, also a Hungarian rhythmic gymnastics athlete, won golds from both the individual all-around and ball events. "The atmosphere here is great. After the competition, I will go to see pandas, and I also hope to visit some scenic spots in Chengdu," she said.

Indian archer Sachin Gupta celebrated his 24th birthday on the day of the opening ceremony. "The accommodation is so great, and the people here are so polite and helpful to us," said Gupta. "I am also planning to see the pandas here in a nearby village."

Chinese American archer Katherine Wu is a big fan of Chinese pandas. "I watched pandas and tasted local spicy food with my parents and sister," said Wu.

Peter Ogwang, Minister of Education & Sports of Uganda, spoke highly of the infrastructure and organization of the Chengdu Universiade. "I only watched pandas on TV before, but now I can see pandas on the spot," he said. 

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