Taiwan is what they want to be known as, but Chinese Taipei is what they are forced to compete as in the ongoing Summer Universiade or the ‘Little Olympics’ — the biggest sporting event to be held in the island nation. Chinese Taipei is not the name most of the people in this country can relate to. The 29th Summer Universiade was a chance to hog the limelight as a free and democratic nation, but it isn’t the case as politics and diplomacy have forced it to participate in the event as Chinese Taipei. The host nation may have the biggest squad out of 142 teams competing in the Summer Universiade but its 368 athletes will not be able to represent the Taiwanese flag or sing its national anthem as has been the case in international sporting events in the past.
The reason being that China sees the country as part of its territory and objects to any official diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. “In our struggle to fight for international space, we have no choice but to accept the Chinese Taipei name,” said Su Li-chiung, secretary-general of the Taipei City government, who heads the Universiade preparations.
Since 1984, Taiwan has taken part in the Olympic Games as Chinese Taipei but residents feel it’s high time their nation gets its due recognition before the world. “We shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of our history and identity. It is one of the rare moments that Taiwan is in the spotlight. We are a free and democratic nation,” said Steve, a marketing professional, who displayed the Taiwanese flag at the opening ceremony at the Taipei Municipal Stadium here yesterday.
In the last Summer Olympics at Rio, a Taiwanese athlete who won a gold medal in taekwando, watched a flag rise and listened to an anthem that most citizens would not normally recognise as Taiwanese.
Under the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), competing under the name Chinese Taipei is the only way that Taiwan can participate in the Olympics. And the same rule applies for Taiwan in the ongoing Universiade, which is organised by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), which is governed by the IOC guidelines.
Over 12,000 athletes from over 140 countries are scheduled to compete in the ongoing Universiade and for Taiwan, it was a perfect platform to put forward its case before the international community. But as has been the case, China has denied the island nation the global limelight. Such has been Beijing’s tough stance that its athletes took part only in individual events and boycotted the opening ceremony.
The two nations got separated after a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the self-ruled island as part of its territory and objects to any official diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
International University Sports Federation (FISU) president Oleg Matytsin steered clear of the controversy and said that the term Chinese Taipei has been used for Games because the federation must conform to the IOC Olympic Movement rules. “The FISU is an IOC-recognised organization, so it has to conform to the Olympic Movement rules and regulations,” Matytsin said. “Respect the rules. Today, I believe it’s very important to educate people how to play according to the rules.”
The official Universiade media guide had used Chinese Taipei, but it was later changed to Taiwan after legislators and the public expressed discontent.
Interestingly, at the opening ceremony, Tsai Ing-wen was introduced as the President of “the Republic of China”, Taiwan’s official name, which China does not recognise. She waved to the audience and declared the Games open but refrained from giving any speech.