Fri, Feb 22, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan shut out of Olympic warm-up

SPORTING CHANCE Taiwan's medal-winning taekwondo squad will have to make do with watching an invitational competition in Beijing after being denied entry

STAFF WRITER , WITH DPA, TAIPEI

A Taiwanese sports group yesterday protested at being left out of a taekwondo warm-up event for the Beijing Olympics, describing the development as a political maneuver aimed at downgrading Taiwan.

"We made a verbal protest to the organizer of the Good Luck Beijing event and asked if they could remedy the situation, but they said it is very difficult," said a Chinese-Taipei Taekwondo Association official, who asked not to be named.

"Taiwan won two bronze [medals] at the Sydney Olympics and two gold and one silver at the Athens Olympics. Four Taiwan players have qualified to compete in the Beijing Olympics," he said.

"But the organizer said they are inviting only about 100 taekwondo competitors to the warm-up event out of the 128 competitors who will participate in the Beijing Olympics. So the purpose of excluding Taiwan players is obvious: It is to downgrade our international status."

The rules of the taekwondo warm-up are similar to the official competition, though competitors do not compete on a scoring basis. The main purpose is to allow competitors to experience the conditions of Olympic competition in advance of the Games proper.

Not inviting Taiwan's taekwondo squad to the warm-up was tantamount to "confiscating" the experience from the players, the Chinese-Taipei Taekwondo Association official said.

Because the warm-up is taking place on an invitation-only basis, the four Taiwanese players -- Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎), Su Li-wen (蘇麗文), Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) and Sung Yu-chi (宋玉麒) -- will travel to Beijing and watch the tournament only as observers. The invitational competition starts on Tuesday.

Taekwondo and archery are Taiwan's best chances of winning gold at the Beijing Olympics.

Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics from Aug. 8 to Aug. 24. Prior to the Games, China is hosting a series of "Good Luck Beijing" international tournaments in preparation for the Olympics.

Under pressure from China, Taiwanese athletes can only attend Olympic Games and most international sports events under the name of "Chinese Taipei" -- implying that Taiwan is part of China. The national flag of the Republic of China cannot be displayed, and only the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee song -- not the national anthem -- can be played at medal presentation ceremonies.

For the Beijing Olympics, Taiwan has asked the International Olympic Committee to guarantee that there will be no political interference and no discrimination against Taiwanese athletes.

China has promised that it will treat Taiwanese players fairly and in line with the Olympic Charter.

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