Taiwanese athletes on Saturday marched in the opening ceremony of the Gay Games in Paris, waving the Republic of China (ROC) flag and a carrying a banner that read, “The first Asian country to legalize gay marriage: Taiwan.”
However, spectators and participants at the ceremony, including members of team France and team San Fransisco, also waved ROC flags that they obtained from Taiwanese athletes as a show of support for the nation.
Although Taiwanese athletes had previously participated individually in the Games, this year is the first time a national team was sent to the event.
The team is comprised of 18 athletes competing in categories including speed roller skating, tennis, swimming and table tennis.
As the Games are not organized by nationality, athletes carried various national and regional flags as well as rainbow flags at the opening ceremony at the Stade Jean Bouin.
US participants were grouped by local affiliations such as San Fransisco, New York and Washington.
Organizers of the Games late last month changed the Taiwanese team’s name on its Web site from “Taiwan” to “Taipei.”
The French softball team took scores of ROC flags, said Yang Chih-chun (楊智群), team leader and Gay Sports and Taiwan Gay Development Movement Association president.
“They said using the name ‘Taipei’ is disrespectful to the people of Taiwan. We are certainly grateful for their help,” Yang said.
Swimmer and team co-leader Yu Kun-i (游坤義) said that Team Taiwan would not shy away from using the ROC flag, as other teams were flying their national flags as they pleased.
“The organizers do not provide flags for participants, because they want to show their respect for the way the teams choose to represent themselves,” he said.
Most importantly, the team wants to advertise that Taiwan is the first Asian nation to allow same-sex marriage, Yu said.
“For us, Taiwan represents the values of our group and society,” he added.
The organizers have unofficially told the team that they would not interfere with how Team Taiwan represents itself in the arena, because Taiwan stands for human rights, democracy and freedom, he said.
The team in its promotional materials used the bajiajiang (eight generals, 八家將) from Taiwanese folk religion to showcase Taiwan’s local culture, Yu said.
The generals’ faces are painted in the colors of the rainbow and half of their faces are covered to symbolize gay pride and coming out of the closet, he said.
Australian and Canadian participants told the team that they know that the real name of the team is “Taiwan” and conveyed their sympathy for the name change, a Team Taiwan supporting staff member said.
The Games are the 10th iteration of the event held once every four years and are sponsored by the French Presidency, the French Ministry of Culture, the French Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the city of Paris.
The Games, which opened on Saturday, would run through Sunday and have attracted 10,317 participants from 91 nations to compete in 36 categories.
The organizers are expecting 300,000 spectators to attend the Games.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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