Taiwan’s Own Goals at the Olympics
By Ross Darrell Feingold
Former Asia Chairman Republicans Abroad
During the Olympics opening ceremony “Parade of Nations” many Taiwan friends sent me photos of the Chinese Taipei entering the stadium. Some were sad the team is unable to use the Republic of China flag. Some were happy Chinese Taipei entered the stadium based on “T” for Taiwan rather than “C” for Chinese Taipei and that the NHK broadcaster referred to the team as “Taiwan”.
However the Chinese Taipei team entering based on “T” has precedent at prior Olympics and this is done to avoid Chinese Taipei entering immediately after China. Although the NHK broadcaster referring to the team as Taiwan might provide momentary happiness for some in Taiwan it is insignificant for the international television audience.
More important are Taiwan’s three “own goals” in front of the international community prior to the start of the Olympics.
First the decision in May to cancel the Final Qualifier baseball tournament to be held in Taichung was a mistake despite the increase in COVID-19 cases at the time. Only a small number of foreigners would have entered Taiwan for the tournament many of whom would have already received vaccinations. If Tokyo amid a surge in COVID-19 cases can host the Olympics surely Taiwan could have hosted a baseball tournament. Subsequently Taiwan decided not to attend the Final Qualifier when it was moved to Mexico. The message to the international community was that Taiwan which for 18 months claimed to the model of good COVID-19 management lacked confidence in its ability to manage COVID-19 risks or the baseball team’s travel during the pandemic even though most other Olympic baseball teams decided these issues are manageable.
Second the controversy over the travel arrangements for Taiwan’s athletes resulted in a public apology by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). It is peculiar that something so simple as travel arrangements should require the president’s personal involvement or require her apology. Unfortunately this is the latest in several controversies involving Taiwan’s sports organizations and Taiwan fails to achieve its potential at international sports tournaments.
Finally a senior Taiwan government official did not accompany the Chinese Taipei team to Tokyo. There is precedent for Taiwan government ministers to attend the Olympics and it was announced that Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) would do so. However according to a Central News Agency report on July 18 Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said the International Olympic Committee informed all national Olympic Committees on July 14 that due to the pandemic very few people would be allowed to participate in the opening ceremony this year and those allowed will be limited to athletes the chairpersons and secretary-generals of national Olympic Committees heads of state and heads of government.
In fact foreign government officials who attended the opening ceremony were not all chairpersons and secretary-generals of national Olympic Committees heads of state and heads of government. Ministers and deputy ministers from some countries did attend and it is unclear why the Taiwan government failed to insist that Minister Tang attend and her absence is also a lost opportunity.