International students at WKU had the chance to demonstrate their skills in a variety of sports in the second annual International Olympics spanning four days last week. Eight international student organizations registered, doubling participation from the first Olympics.
The Indian Students Association successfully defended its title from last year as winner of the Olympics.
WKU’s newest fraternity, Beta Gamma Omega, a multicultural fraternity established Feb. 10 this year, hosted the International Olympics along with the Council of International Student Organizations in an attempt to get international students more involved at WKU.
Beta Gamma Omega’s philanthropy is the International Center of Kentucky, so the fraternity is donating all of the money collected from registration fees for the International Olympics to the International Center to benefit refugees from around the world.
Flavio Chavarri, chairman of the committee for the International Olympics and founder and president of Beta Gamma Omega, said the purpose of the International Olympics is “to create a light-hearted competition where all international students and American students can get together, know each other, and integrate by participating in these wonderful games.”
Chavarri, a Peruvian student, said most international students only know other WKU students from their own countries and in their organizations, but through the International Olympics, they get to meet international students from all across the globe.
Only international student organizations were allowed to sign up, but American students could participate by representing one of the organizations. In badminton and volleyball, several American students represented ESLI, English as a Second Language International.
The International Olympics were created to make it possible for all organizations to compete fairly. Since some of the international organizations have significantly less members than others, the six events were designed to be easy to participate for those with fewer members, and all of the sports are popular with international students: ping pong, badminton, volleyball, track and field, dodgeball and soccer.
Aditya Somaraju played ping pong competitively in India, but he is now focusing on his major in computer science, and his schoolwork has kept him from playing as much as he did before. He said he was proud to be able to represent his country once again by playing in the ping pong tournament on Thursday.
Somaraju said he didn’t feel separated from other people in the tournament like he usually does on campus, because he was with other international students.
“Everyone comes together here and makes friends,” he said.
Somaraju and his partner, Wajahat Faisal, 19, beat the Pakistani team for the first gold medal of the event.
After the ping pong tournament, Chavarri and Daniel Salami, umpire of the tournament and member of Beta Gamma Omega from Nigeria, were happy with the turnout.
“I’ve never seen so many people from so many backgrounds in one place,” Chavarri said.
Shereyas Hassan and his badminton partner, Smita Peter, took the gold in the badminton championship against Pakistan on Friday.
Hassan also played competitively in India, but this was only the second time he played since coming to the United States.
“It’s my forte, and I finally got to play and show my talent,” he said.
Peter was surprised she was one of the only girls participating, but not discouraged. She played ping pong recreationally in India and was glad to meet new people in the International Olympics.
Going into the championship volleyball game Friday evening, Hussain Alsiadiq, a Saudi student, was confident his team would come out on top. He has attended WKU for three years and said he already knew most of the people at the games. When one of his friends asked him to participate last minute, he was happy to help, and his team beat India in the final volleyball game.
India got its third win in the track and field event, a 400 meter relay, and ESLI won its first event at dodgeball on Saturday.
Abdullah Alriyami, a 21-year-old student from Oman, said he appreciates the chance to meet people from different cultures from all over the world. He said he thought the Omani team would be able to win the soccer game for the second time this year, though he knew they couldn’t win the overall title.
“Honestly, I think everything will be easy for us,” he said, “but I’m not trying to be cocky.”
However, this final event in the International Olympics came to a rainy ending as Sunday morning brought a downpour causing Beta Gamma Omega to cancel the rest of the game. Both the Korean team and the Omani team were given the title for soccer and the same amount of points, but neither had enough to become the new reigning champion of the International Olympics.
ESLI came in second place, and the Korean Students Association placed third. Beta Gamma Omega will hold an award ceremony for the winners of the International Olympics at the World Festival this Thursday.
Reporter Callie Miller can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]
Correction: a previous version of this story referred to Daniel Salami as David Salami. The Herald regrets the error.