Taiwanese expats gathered at the Hilton London Kensington hotel on the eve of the Olympics on Thursday with the intention of literally flying the flag.
The event, organized by the Taiwanese Students Association in the United Kingdom (TSAUK) to distribute national flags to Taiwanese fans attending the Games, took on added significance after the controversial removal of the nation’s flag from a display in London’s Regent Street this week.
Yang Wen-ju, a teacher from Taipei, expressed her indignation as she brandished a copy of the London Evening Standard, which covered the story.
“I want to show my support, especially after the removal of the flag,” said Yang, who was joined at the event by her English boyfriend, Nigel Chiplen.
The pair are among the lucky few to have obtained prized tickets for the athletics events, so at least there will be a Taiwanese presence in the stands for the women’s 100m final, if not on the track.
Richard Wang, a UK-based IT worker, was also upset by the flag incident, so much so that he will be joining a group of Taiwanese going to Regent Street today to make their feelings known on the matter.
Although he missed out on tickets for the Games, he intends to show off the flag he received on Thursday at one of the cycling road races, for which tickets are not necessary.
“I’m so excited to be here for the biggest event in the UK for years,” said Wang, who comes from Kaohsiung and has been in the UK for nearly two years.
Taekwondo seemed to be one of the biggest draws for Taiwanese, including Eric Chen, who works for a Taiwanese video surveillance firm in the UK.
He will be one of more than 100 Taiwanese fans who will be cheering on Yang Shu-chun and Wei Chen-yang at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre on Aug. 8.
“To be honest, I’m not that big a fan of taekwondo, but I just want to show my support for the Taiwanese competitors,” Chen said, admitting that he was much more keen on baseball.
Hotel worker Tiger Kang was another who lamented the absence of Taiwan’s national sport from this year’s Games, although he has the consolation of having landed tickets for the opening ceremony and the basketball bronze-medal match.
“I really want to see Team USA, so I kind of hope they don’t make the final,” Kang said.
Thomas Liao of TSAUK explained that Thursday’s gathering aimed to help Taiwanese in the UK support their compatriots competing in the Olympics.
“Normally in the summer there are not many students about, but this year is different,” said Liao, who has recently completed a doctorate at Kings College in London. “We want to enjoy the Games and promote our country.”