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Alvarez talks perceptions of U.S.

On his first trip outside the United States, Paul Alvarez professor of movement and sports science, served as athletic trainer for the United States International University Sports Federation competition hosted by Serbia. The event, held in Belgrade in July, is an international competition for collegiate athletes. Alvarez will join Team USA again for next year’s competition in China. / photo by Scott Mirimanian

Marilyn Mejia
Staff Writer

Paul Alvarez, professor of movement and sports science, talked about the perception other countries have of the United States and how it affected him when he was in Serbia this summer for Universiade.

“Universiade invites the best (athletes) in the world from their respective sports,” Alvarez said.

Universiade took place in Belgrade, Serbia, where more than 70 countries participated. Alvarez was there in his capacity as an athletic trainer for the United States International University Sports Federation competition.

His talk Monday in the President’s Dining Room was part of the faculty lecture series

“It was very fascinating to see people who were very passionate about their country,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also spoke of how people from other countries reacted to the U.S. teams and the precautions that he had to take while in Serbia.

Everywhere he went there was security with him because there was a fear that something could happen to him and other Americans, he said.

At the open ceremonies, the U.S. team was booed and yelled at when they were walking down the streets of Belgrade on their way to the stadium, Alvarez said.

He also spoke of how other teams were free to hang their country’s flags from their hotel balconies but the U.S. was asked not to for security reasons.

Alvarez reminded the group of students and faculty of the NATO bombings that started in 1999 and lasted for 11 weeks in Serbia, which the U.S. took part in.

There is still damage in Belgrade from those bombings, – physical and the emotional, he said.

Alvarez said the U.S. as a country is oblivious to what happens globally.

“The rest of the world pays more attention to the rest of the world than the people in the U.S. do,” added David Werner, associate professor of English, who attended the event.

“Things have context and Americans are bad at understanding and caring about that,” said Philip Hofer, director of the international and study abroad center, who attended Alvarez’ Monday talk.

Alvarez said that despite the negative perception of Americans, he was treated kindly when in Serbia.

“The cliché in this is that the people hate America, but they like Americans,” Werner said.

Alvarez’ also addressed how all the different countries within the sports village got along and were gracious to one another.

Alvarez said it was a great experience to travel and meet people from so many different backgrounds.

“Anytime you remove the geopolitical conditions from our international relationships and replace it with people to people contact like at a sporting event, you have the potential for more positive human relationships,” Hofer said.

Alvarez concluded his lecture by talking about how athletic trainers are always the first and last to leave the field and how he was one of the last people to leave. He said he departed with fewer supplies than he came with after leaving plenty of pre-wrap and reusable heat packs for athletes who were not as privileged.

Marilyn Mejia can be reached at

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