A purported error by the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) gave the Taiwanese team competing at this year’s Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Colombo on opening day on Saturday a rare glimpse of the Republic of China (ROC) national flag on their athletes’ passes.
The championships, which run through tomorrow, are a series of athletics competitions held biannually in Asia for athletes under the age of 20 and are organized by the Asian Athletics Association.
The Taiwanese team were reportedly overjoyed to see the ROC flag flying over the track grounds when they arrived and they were doubly surprised to see the ROC flag on their passes, though the team also noticed that the hosts had erroneously spelled “Chinese Taipei” as “Chinese Thaipei.”
The team members and coaches took pictures of the unprecedented passes.
Coach Huang Chun-jung (黃春榮) said this was the first time he had been issued such a pass since Taiwan were compelled to adopt “Chinese Taipei” for future Olympic Games following an agreement between the International Olympic Committee and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1981.
The Lausanne agreement confirmed the committee’s name, flag and symbol and bestowed them powers on par with other national Olympic committees. However, any Taiwanese team participating in international competitions can only use the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag and the name “Chinese Taipei” instead of the ROC national flag and name.
The government commonly refers to the Lausanne agreement as the “Olympic model.”
The Taiwanese athletes’ joy was short-lived, as the delegation from China expectedly complained to the hosts that they had made what the Chinese claimed was a mistake. The AASL took back the ROC passes and gave the Taiwanese athletes new ones later on Saturday upon their return to their hotel after the day’s events concluded.
The AASL also replaced the ROC flags flying over the racetrack and on the arch leading to the entrance of the grounds with the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag.
Commenting on the AASL’s actions, team leader Ti Hsueh-tien (翟學電) said the Taiwanese team would adhere to the “Olympic model,” adding that “the repeated change of schedule infringes on athletes’ rights and gives participants the feeling that they are doing things rashly and without order.”
Even after the ROC flag and name were changed at the Chinese delegation’s behest, the Taiwanese athletes were surprised to find that the AASL had arranged their order of entry to the grounds during the opening ceremony under countries starting with the letter “C.”
Under the 1981 agreement, the Chinese Taipei team order is classified under the letter “T” rather than “C” in an attempt to differentiate Chinese Taipei from China.
Despite the mix-ups, Taiwan’s participation in the competitions have not been affected. By the end of Saturday’s events, the team had won one gold medal by Liao Ching-hsien (廖靜賢), who won the women’s 100m dash in 11.97 seconds.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer