Fri, Aug 10, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: When sports and politics mix

The phrase "sports and politics do not mix" is one of the oldest misconceptions in the sporting world.

The latest proof of the absurdity of this phrase was recently displayed in Venezuela, the host country for the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Youth Championships, which bowed to China's influence and refused to issue visas to 20 young Taiwanese baseball players.

Chinese Taipei Baseball Association secretary-general Lin Tsung-cheng (林宗成) said the Taiwanese baseball team, which planned to arrive in Venezuela before next Tuesday, would not be able to make it to the world championship if the players aren't issued their visas by today.

How cruel. The brutishness of politics diminishes not just the values of sportsmanship and fair play which sponsors and athletic associations promote, but also the hopes of these 20 young baseball players who -- after months and months of training -- just wanted to be able to play in the world championship.

It is unfair for the players to be stripped of the respect and dignity enjoyed by every other participant when they have worked so hard to be able to compete with other countries.

Whoever in the pan-blue camp still believes that "sports and politics do not mix" should wake up to the reality. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chih-hsiung (黃志雄) should especially take note.

When the Democratic Progressive Party government rejected China's offer to include Taipei on China's "domestic" torch route, the taekwondo fighter-turned-lawmaker argued that rejecting China's offer was a serious matter that would end up jeopardizing Taiwanese athletes' opportunity to compete on the world stage.

Huang, a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games, trumpeted that "sports and politics do not mix" and proposed that the government allow the torch to come to Taiwan as Beijing had proposed.

If Huang actually considered why Taiwan needs to participate in the Olympic Games and other international sporting events under the ridiculous name of "Chinese Taipei," he would realize how untrue it is that "sports and politics do not mix."

Taiwan had to sign a memorandum of understanding in 1991 to agree to compete in international sporting events with the name "Chinese Taipei" as its official designation.

The alternative was to be blacklisted.

China has never tried to hide its sneaky attempts to mix politics with sports as a way to undermine Taiwan's international presence and status.

Members of a Chinese team participating in the International Children's Games in Thailand last August tried to snatch the national flag away from Taiwanese medalists several times as they accepted their awards on stage.

Some may argue that by rejecting Beijing's proposed torch relay to Taiwan, the DPP government was politicizing a sporting event. That's not so: They were merely upholding the integrity and sovereignty of the nation, which is a matter of dignity that transcends politics.

China has now elevated its tactics from snatching flags from out of Taiwanese athletes' hands to directly influencing a host country to bar Taiwanese players from taking part in a competition.

How uncivilized.

Shame on China. Shame also on those who choose to turn a blind eye to China's behavior.

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