May 28, 2008

Midwest Games 2008 deemed 'a huge success'

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Beijing has nothing on Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The 2008 Olympics may be in China later this summer, but SIUC and the surrounding community experienced their very own mini-Olympic games and cultural festival in grand style during the Memorial Day weekend. That's when hundreds of Malaysian students from all over North America and Malaysian dignitaries from around the world celebrated Midwest Games 2008.

A colorful opening ceremony kicked off the games. Throughout the weekend, about 650 students tested their skills at assorted games including chess, bowling and billiards, basketball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, track, badminton, table tennis, a marbles board game known as congkak and a volleyball kick sort of game called sepak takraw, and more. Social interaction and celebrations of the diverse Malaysian culture abounded as well.

"We were delighted to host the Malaysian Midwest Games," said Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs. "Overall, it was a huge success. We are very proud of our local Malaysian Student Association and particularly the efforts of Aaron Victor and his team of student leaders."

Dietz commended Victor and his team for preparing the initial proposal for SIUC to be the host site, lobbying with the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education for the games to be at the University, and following through with all of the planning for the games.

"We had students from many highly respected universities throughout the United States coming from as far away as California, Texas and New York as well as Canada," Dietz said. "We also appreciated the visit by dignitaries from the Malaysian Ministry in Kuala Lumpur as well as representation by officials from the embassy in Washington, D.C., and from the Chicago and Los Angeles offices."

Organizers estimate that with the inclusion of Malaysian dignitaries and spectators, the Midwest Games swelled Carbondale's population by more than 800. Victor, president of the SIUC International Student Council and director of the 2008 Midwest Games, said the games were "a big success." A graduate student in electrical engineering from Teluk Intan, Malaysia, Victor said he and his committee networked with Malaysian students all over. They exchanged ideas that were incorporated into the big event, with valuable assistance from the University and its personnel as well as the city of Carbondale.

"It all worked," Victor said. "Everyone did what they could to help and people were very happy with everything. It was a great weekend."

"I want to thank the city of Carbondale and particularly the Convention and Tourism Bureau along with the various campus departments and staff who were involved with the games," Dietz said.

Dietz also commended SIUC's International Programs and Services, Recreational Sports and Services, Student Center, University Housing, Student Health, Arena and Shryock Promotions, admissions and all of the University's units and personnel who supported and helped in any way with the Midwest Malaysian Games.

"We look forward to deepening our relationship with the Ministry and hope to be able to attract other games in the future," Dietz added.

SIUC and Malaysian officials formed a special bond during the event, noted Carla E. Coppi, interim director of International Programs and Services at SIUC. She said the Malaysian Ministry's goal is to have 100,000 new doctoral graduates by 2020 and SIUC is anxious to be a part of that plan.

Victor said he and the other event organizers experienced personal growth and learned much preparing for and handling the games. Thus, it was worthwhile and enjoyable for them personally as well as for the hundreds of participants who had so much fun together. But more importantly, they believe Midwest Games 2008 was an excellent promotion for the University they care so much about. The weekend was a "life-changing experience" for participants, a time of cultural sharing, a taste of Midwest hospitality, and a showcase for what makes SIUC special, Victor said.

Participants in the 2008 Malaysian Midwest Games came from: California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, Carleton University- Canada's Capital University, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western University, Cikiradi School of Mines, Colorado School of Mines, Duke University, Eastern Michigan University and Indiana University.

Also, Iowa State University, Lansing Community College in Michigan, Marquette University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Missouri State University, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, The Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University in New Jersey, SIUC, State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Chicago, University of Tulsa, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of California Davis, and University of Central Oklahoma.

Additionally, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Maryland-College Park, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Ottawa in Canada, University of Rochester, University of Texas-Austin, University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vanderbilt University, Virginia International University, Western Michigan University, Wichita State University and Wright College of Chicago.

In addition, participants came from Caterpillar University, Carbondale Community High School, New Trier High School and Wilmette Junior High School.