Taiwan’s Representative to the UK Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) on Thursday night demanded a written apology after London Olympics organizers snatched a Republic of China (ROC) flag from a Taiwanese expatriate cheering for Taiwanese athlete Tseng Li-cheng (曾櫟騁).
Shen told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview last night that when Taiwan signed an agreement with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 1981, known as the Olympic model, it did not agree to extend the prohibition of ROC national flags to seating areas in Olympics sports stadiums.
“It’s easy to understand because the agreement makes no mention of audience seats,” and “spectators are not subject to any rule under the agreement” that bans them from waving ROC national flags, he said.
On Thursday night, a Taiwanese expatriate waving a large ROC national flag while Tseng was presented with her bronze medal in the taekwondo women’s under-57kg division had his flag taken by a member of the venue’s security staff.
Shen, who was present at the match, said he witnessed the scene and immediately went over to the office of protocol to lodge a protest with the organizer.
According to the representative office, the venue’s protocol manager, Rebecca Sutton, apologized to Shen after she reviewed the footage.
Three other executives, including the event services manager, venue operation manager and arena protocol manager, also apologized to Shen for the staff’s “inappropriate” handling of the case, the office said.
Shen said although he accepted the apology, whether Olympics spectators have the right to bring ROC flags with them to sports venues remains an “unresolved problem.”
“There is an urgent need for clarification on the matter to prevent similar incidents in international sports events,” Shen said.
Shen said he has prepared a letter addressed to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to explain the Olympic model and to demand a formal apology from the organizer over the incident on Thursday.
The seizure of the ROC flag was “unfortunate,” Shen said, and he appreciated the organizer handling the issue “in an earnest and cautious manner.”
China is opposed to Taiwan participating in the Olympics as the ROC, because it implies the existence of “two Chinas.”
In order to participate in the Games, Taiwan’s Olympic Committee signed the Olympic model agreement with the IOC under which Taiwan competes under the name “Chinese Taipei” and uses the Olympic flag and anthem in place of the ROC flag and national anthem.
Whether the Olympic model’s rules apply to spectators in seating areas has been interpreted differently.
Last week, the Sports Affairs Council and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Tourism Bureau sent a letter to travel agents to ask them to remind Taiwanese travelers to observe the Olympic model.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs termed it a “gesture of goodwill” extended to Taiwan by the LOCOG that small ROC national flags were allowed to be shown in sports stadiums, after it advised the Regent Street Association to remove the ROC flag from a London street late last month after a complaint from the Chinese embassy.
The ministry said at the time that spectators are not allowed to carry ROC flags under the 1981 agreement, because it “recognizes only the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag.”