Thu, Aug 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Why can't Taiwan host the Olympics?

By Liao Lin Li-ling 廖林麗玲

As Japan decides whether it will submit Tokyo or Fukuoka as its candidate city for the 2016 Olympics, the Japanese Olympic Committee began a two-month evaluation of the cities' credentials on Aug. 1. Taiwan should take this opportunity to reconsider the challenges standing in the way of a 2020 bid.

In the past, many cities were not qualified to host the summer Olympics because of the major drain on resources that the Games presented. However all that changed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, when the US boldly incorporated a commercial approach into the events and ended up coming away with US$225 million in profit. Ever since that first lucrative Olympics, competition to host the Games has become tougher and tougher.

Aside from the clear financial and political advantages to hosting the Olympics, there are also many other hidden benefits. First, the opening and closing ceremonies attended by the International Olympic Committee chairman and the president of the host country are broadcast by international media around the world, and nearly every country on earth sends representative delegations to the Games. This presents an incredible publicity opportunity for the host country.

At the same time, it can lead to impressive growth for the host country and city.

Applying to host the Games is not easy. England, for example, experienced multiple failures before finally getting the right to host the Games in 2012. But even though the chances of success are slight, rejection is not necessarily a complete loss.

In 1993, Manchester, England, was denied the right to host the 2000 Games for the second time, but the application process energized the city as residents took it upon themselves to participate in the application activities. Afterward, the Labour Party conveniently used the application experience to lead a new urban renaissance movement and revamp Britain and its society. And although Vancouver failed twice to reach its goal of hosting the Winter Olympics, the focus and conviction shown by the residents was invaluable in itself.

Just as former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has said: "It is the spirit of Taiwan to create unlimited possibilities in the midst of difficulties and limited resources."

People have given every kind of reason why Taiwan shouldn't host the Games, but all these objections have been heard in countries that have since hosted the Olympics. Taiwan is one of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world, and has a national income greater than those of Mexico and South Korea when they hosted the Olympics. If these two countries could do it, why not Taiwan?

It cannot be denied that Taiwan exists in a hostile international environment, and it goes without saying that even though the conditions may be ripe from a subjective perspective, Taiwan will, objectively speaking, still suffer from deliberate obstruction from countries like China. But how did Taiwan get the rights to hold the 2009 World Games? How is it that China's arrogant interference failed?

Evidently, it is a matter of how things are handled. During these times of political and economic chaos and unclear goals for the future, capturing the 2020 Olympics could serve as a wakeup call. The 2020 Games aren't just a dream: they could be a goal, too.

Liao Lin Li-ling is deputy secretary-general of the European Union Study Association-Taiwan.

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