Just as public opinion was ruminating on Taiwan’s less than satisfactory performance in the London 2012 Olympics, news surfaced of Taiwanese Olympic gold medalist Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎), who won gold in taekwondo at the Athens Olympics in 2004, being disqualified from membership of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission for allegedly violating campaign regulations in London.
This piece of news highlights a few issues.
Does Taiwan actually have any representatives on the Athletes’ Commission? And how many Taiwanese referees participated in the London Olympics?
While we are preoccupied with bemoaning our athletes’ inferiority to other athletes, we need to take a moment and accept that the Olympics work in the same way as the global economic system. Countries with commission members and referees in the IOC are the very ones who decide who gets the medals.
Take taekwondo, for example. Most people understand that it was Korean people who developed the martial art. They successfully disseminated the sport around the world and made it an official Olympic event in 2000. On the other hand, people are less familiar with the arduous, incremental process that the Koreans’ promulgation of taekwondo actually involved.
While Taiwanese are still mourning the lack of fairness in the controversial disqualification of Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) during the 2010 Asian Games for allegedly placing extra sensors on her socks, they are now wondering when exactly the World Taekwondo Federation’s (WTF) rules regarding the sensors were adopted as the standard for international competitions. Since Tseng Li-cheng (曾櫟騁) was not awarded points after landing a head kick on Britain’s Jade Jones, we are curious to know when the WTF decided that a head kick gets three points.
In other words, as long as Taiwanese only deal with these issues passively as players and not actively as actors, we will never have the advantage of participating in deciding who is awarded sporting medals.
For any international organization to succeed, it requires universal participation and contributions from every nation. The IOC’s Athletes’ Commission is no exception to this rule. Many of the commission’s members have been Olympic athletes or coaches; they are a fundamental part of a system that is important to the sports of every nation.
If Taiwan is to make any headway in the Olympics in future, it needs to understand that the number of medals a nation wins is not the only indicator of its overall success in the Olympics.
Taiwanese were disheartened to hear that Chu had been disqualified from the membership election for the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission. However, at least great strides have been made and things are headed in the right direction. We should provide more encouragement and substantial support. The greatest blessing for Taiwanese sports and its athletes would be for Taiwanese to serve as referees and represent the Olympic committees at all levels.
Yang Lung-jieh is chair of mechanical engineering at Tamkang University.
Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat