Olympic table tennis champion Ding Ning takes part in the torch relay at Peking University in Beijing on Saturday for the upcoming 31st FISU Summer World University Games. (WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY)
Chinese university athletes said they are eager to compete against their global counterparts at the upcoming 31st FISU Summer World University Games, to once again show the world a welcoming and inclusive Chengdu and China, as the torch relay for the Games kicked off on Saturday at Peking University in Beijing.
Vice-Premier Ding Xuexiang, who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, lit the torch from a caldron at the ceremony and announced the start of the relay.
Leonz Eder, FISU acting president, said in a video message that the flame of the University Games represents light, unity, friendship and peace, and also the skill, courage and tenacity of university athletes who have to strike a balance between competitive sports and study.
Young representatives from many countries and regions will together deliver a powerful message of "working together to create a brighter future for humanity" as torchbearers of the Chengdu 2021 FISU Games, Eder said.
They represent the power of collaboration for the betterment of humanity's shared future, he added.
Thirty-one torchbearers participated in the event, carrying the flame past the university's landmarks.
Four torchbearers from four previous summer and winter University Games held on the Chinese mainland joined the relay, in a demonstration of the enduring spirit of university sports.
The relay will also be held in Harbin in Heilongjiang province, Shenzhen in Guangdong province, Chongqing municipality, and Yibin and Chengdu in Sichuan province. The flame will be used to light the caldron tower on July 28.
Ding Ning, a student representative of PKU and an Olympic champion, said she made use of her sporting spirit in her studies and work, as well as to contribute to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Table tennis legend Deng Yaping said the panda on the torch is a symbol of Sichuan province and China as a whole.
"I believe many athletes will love the torch, although not all of them can be torchbearers, so I feel extremely happy and honored," she said.
Wang Hanqing, captain of Sichuan University's swimming team, said the passing of the torch is also a transference of hopes and dreams.
Becoming a torchbearer is an honor and of great significance, she said.
"The flame represents inclusiveness, which is how I feel about studying and living in Chengdu. By passing on the torch, I am also showing the world an inclusive Chengdu," she said.
Other torchbearers during the first leg of the relay included Olympic shooting champion Yang Ling and Olympic gymnastics champion Zou Jingyuan, as well as university students.
The games will be held from July 28 to Aug 8 after being delayed twice due to COVID-19. Chengdu is the third mainland city to host the biennial Summer University Games, following Beijing in 2001 and Shenzhen in 2011.