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Summer Deaf Olympics Kick Off in Taiwan

The 21st Summer Deaf Olympics officially kicked off in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, Saturday. The games offer Taiwan an opportunity to show a positive image to the world after an August dominated by negative headlines related to the government's response to Typhoon Morakot.

The twelve-part opening ceremony included singing by Taiwanese pop star A-mei, an appearance by actor Jet-Li and choreographed artistic performances themed on Taiwan's landscape, ecology, and even its food.

One of the acts, meant to highlight Taipei as a culinary capitol, had performers dressed up as noodles, vegetables and stewed eggs. They assembled into famous local dishes, such as minced pork and beef noodle soup.

Many of the performers, who are deaf, responded to split-second visual cues.

The Deaflympics features 20 sports, including soccer, swimming, wrestling, table tennis and orienteering. A record 4,000 athletes from 81 countries are registered to compete this year.

In August, the approaching Deaflympics were overshadowed by Typhoon Morakot, whose record rains triggering massive mudslides that wiped out one village, and cut off many more from early rescue efforts. Morakot, which dumped record rainfall on Taiwan from August 7-9, is blamed for the deaths of over 700 people to date.

To pay tribute to the victims and relief workers, Chinese martial arts actor, Jet Li, recited the words of four rescue workers credited with rescuing 137 villagers.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin also spoke of the victims of the typhoon, adding that the resilience of the Taiwanese people was similar to that of deaf athletes.

"Taiwan faces many obstacles internationally, but we never give up," said Hau. "Our determination and efforts," he said, "brought the Deaflympics to Taiwan, and have made Taipei the spotlight of the world tonight!"

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou also attended the opening ceremony.

The Chinese team, however, was absent during the procession of athletes.

China blamed a scheduling problem on their absence. But Beijing, which claims Taiwan as a renegade province, often objects to Taiwan participation in international events. A lone flag bearer represented the athletes.

The Deaf Olympics were first held in Paris, France in 1924. The competition, the first ever for athletes with disabilities, were then known as the Silent Games. This is the first time the Deaflympics have been held in Asia. The closing ceremony will be on September 15.