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Nearly 12,000 athletes and official delegation members from 152 countries will participate in the 26th Summer World Student Games (Universiade) set to kick off tonight in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen

The Universiade's opening ceremony will be held tonight at 8 p.m. and the event will extend until August 23, 2011 as some 7,865 athletes compete for 306 gold medals in 22 Olympic and two other non-Olympic disciplines (chess, sports aerobics) in 41 stadiums across the city. Most of the participants will come from China, Russia and Japan, according to organizers.

China’s President Hu Jintao together with the President of Mozambique Armando Guebuza, the President of Bolivia Juan Evo Morales Ayma, the President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Naliaticau, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, as well as the Prime Minister of Romania Emil Boc will be present at tonight’s opening ceremony, state media reported.

Universiades are World Games for students hosted by the Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) and which run every other year in the winter and summer. It’s the second largest multi-sport event in the world after the Summer Olympics in terms of the number of participants.

The Shenzhen Universiade will be supplied with a surfeit of volunteer hosts. Roughly 1.27 million volunteers will flood the city to provide help to an expected 8 million visitors over the event’s 11 days. Regardless, the Universiade is expected to be a fun, competitive event bringing together some of the best young athletes from around the world.