That El Presidente was on hand, symbolises just how prestigious these games have become since the second edition was hosted in Rotterdam four years ago. Currently, the number of athletes participating has basically doubled, with nearly 5,000 athletes from 294 universities taking part in this edition.
Of the 180 athletes that have come on behalf of Dutch universities, a couple dozen of those are representing the Erasmus University. There’s a quartet of Skadi rowers, a men’s and women’s tennis team from RTSV Passing Shot, and the footballers from RSV Antibarbari, who are set to arrive in Coimbra later this week.
The games were already two days underway when the opening ceremony began, but it was moments before the ceremony commenced that the delegations from the Netherlands mingled amongst each other for the first time. Together they formed an island of Dutchmen within a sea of internationals in what would typically be a lonely, sun-baked Portuguese plaza.
“The beautiful thing about this is, if it weren’t for the games, I would never have come to this city,” said Sjors van der Velden, one of RTSV’s tennis players.
Naturally, all the Dutchies were clad in orange, all of them staring with a mixture of amusement and irritation at the French, who were summoning the most of their renowned arrogance to celebrate France’s victorious World Cup campaign.
The color orange and a general distaste for the hours of Allez Les Blues chants, however, were about the only thing that truly united the Dutch delegations. To the trained eye, one can easily spot the divide between, let’s say, the Amsterdammers and the Rotterdammers. At a certain moment, the ladies from Amsterdam joined the festive atmosphere by singing their own out-of-tune rendition of the Andre Hazes Jr. song Leef (Live). The Rotterdam tennis players, who looked as if they’d just smelled sewage, responded with a little tune called Helemaal niets in Amsterdam, which translates roughly to “there’s absolutely nothing in Amsterdam.” So much for national comradery.
If there’s one thing the Erasmus delegation realised on Sunday, it’s that they should be pleased with the simplicity of the University’s name. During the opening ceremony, which took place in the charming courtyard of the University of Coimbra, the name of each and every university was announced over the intercom. Some of RTSV member Mick Rooth’s favourites included the Belarusian Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus as well as Szkola Glówna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego w Warszawie. “Brilliant,” laughed Rooth.
After the 294 participating universities had been announced, everyone from the rector of the university and the mayor of the city to a Portuguese judo champion and the President of Portugal came up to the podium to speak. Some of the speeches were even in Portuguese to the confusion of many, and all of them were long-winded lectures featuring phrases like “play with honor” and “achieve excellence”.
“Perhaps they should rename the school; The Coimbra University of Clichés,” joked Ziyed Badreddine.
Although the evening dragged in diplomatic fashion, the spectacle that ensued made all that waiting worth it. Just before the athletes could fall asleep, an extravagant and most certainly impressive lights show was projected onto the walls of the university, which is one of the oldest in the world. The show traced through Portugal’s history and gave attention to each sport taking place at the games.
“That was definitely a more grandiose ceremony than the one in Rotterdam four years ago,” said Yvette Vlaar, who is participating in her third edition EUG. “I really wonder how long it took to make that show.”
This week the tennis teams and the rowers from Rotterdam will come into action in Coimbra. To track their results, take a look here.