Yang Shu-chun and Wei Chen-yang may have had a disappointing day in the Olympic taekwondo competition at London’s Excel Centre on Wednesday, but even their early exits could not dampen the enthusiasm of the Taiwanese fans who roared them on, both inside and outside the venue.
For one day only, the Fox Connaught bar, just a few hundred meters from the Excel Centre, was a corner of East Asia in East London, as about 150 Taiwanese fans witnessed the action on a big screen in a room awash with national flags.
Maxwell Chen from Taipei was philosophical after seeing the drama unfold, despite having tickets for the evening session of a competition in which Taiwanese interest had just ended for the day.
“I’ve no complaints,” said Maxwell, who is currently living in nearby Stratford.
The student was part of a team of dedicated enthusiasts who helped gather compatriots from around Britain to cheer on Yang and Wei, his local knowledge proving useful in securing the pub as a venue and spurred on by the removal of Taiwan’s national flag from a display in London’s famous Regent Street.
“The flag issue made us a little bit mad,” Maxwell said. “In a way, we needed to somehow change our anger into something positive, so we wanted to work as a team, set up an event, perhaps just give our enthusiasm to the athletes.”
Chen Szu-wei, known as Sunny, also helped galvanize support for the taekwondo duo and he was one of more than 100 Taiwanese who had tickets to see the action at the Excel Centre, putting on a colorful display by waving flags, and wearing T-shirts and logos specially designed for the day.
He had traveled from the central English city of Leicester to enjoy the Olympic experience, while others had made the trip from the south coast towns of Southampton and Bournemouth, and even from Newcastle, in the northeast, a four-hour train journey away.
What had started as a small group of friends deciding to cheer on two of Taiwan’s best medal prospects snowballed to incorporate a Facebook campaign to encourage Taiwanese supporters to get involved, including a video featuring students from 10 universities around Britain.
“I just wanted the people of the world to see Taiwanese spirit and enthusiasm,” Sunny said, wearing a blue T-shirt with “Taiwan Pride” written across the chest with a national flag scarf wrapped around his head.
The passionate support even won over some of the locals watching in the Excel Centre.
“Lots of strangers joined in, shouting ‘Taiwan Go,’” the MBA student from Taichung said.
Maxwell had been watching in the bar.
“When Yang won her first match everyone was very happy, everyone was waving their flags,” he said. “It was very noisy, everyone was shouting, enjoying the moment.”
Although the triumph was short-lived, the day had been memorable.
“Obviously, the result we couldn’t decide, but what we could do was create an atmosphere and do our best to support the athletes. I enjoyed it very much,” Maxwell said.