Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Remove Taiwan's Olympic stooge

Taiwan's international sporting profile remains reliant on the efforts of outstanding individuals such as baseballer Wang Chien-ming (王建民) and a handful of Olympians rather than team sports. When these sporting environments are employed for political purposes, therefore, it is particularly important to be mindful of the organizations that oversee them and the actions of senior officials in those organizations.

If Taiwanese are to take themselves seriously, and expect others to treat them with respect, then there are certain standards of behavior in the nation's name that must be upheld by its officers. This is no less true for individuals working in high-profile positions in seemingly apolitical areas such as sports.

Wu Ching-kuo (吳經國), Taiwan's representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and an executive member of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, said in Beijing yesterday that transit of the Olympic torch through Taiwan would contribute to cross-strait detente.

This is wishful thinking at best, whether or not both sides can claim political capital from the torch's route. Indeed, it is laughable that sports -- which China sees more as nationalistic weapons than forums for constructively interacting with other nations -- will defuse tensions given how poverty-stricken the sporting culture of both countries is.

Ideally, if Wu were acting in Taiwan's interests, he would insist that the torch only enter Taiwan if it is not used to bolster Chinese propaganda. But there's little hope of that. Wu is serving on the Beijing Olympic Games Coordination Commission, so we can expect that he will be well-behaved and not do or say anything that would embarrass his superiors.

However, when Wu was asked if Taiwanese and Chinese should march under the same flag -- like athletes from North and South Korea -- he came out with the astonishing response that, according to a Chinese source, "it was still too early to speculate, as the political climate in Taiwan might change."

If Wu did say this, then he is a fool and should be disowned and any association between him and Taiwanese sporting pursuits permanently severed as far as the government is able.

But we cannot be optimistic that the government will do this, given that the Chen administration and its tag team of underperforming premiers have paralyzed themselves with cowardice in acting on issues over which it has the authority to act swiftly and without legislative interference.

In the meantime, here are a few questions for Wu.

First: Whose flag should the athletes march under? The Chinese are hardly likely to march under the Olympic flag, and especially not at home. And there's not much else to choose from.

And second: Has Wu divorced himself so far from Taiwanese public sentiment that he would consider his language to be inoffensive to more than a few Taiwanese independence blowhards?

Taiwanese sport suffers because its administrators are underfunded, undermanned and, in many if not most cases, incompetent and embarrassingly ignorant of the sports they represent.

Taiwanese sport will suffer even more if the government does not have the guts to disassociate itself from this increasingly shifty member of the politically mercenary IOC.

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