Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Push for Olympic name change not political

By Huang Tai-lin  /  Staff Reporter

Awards won by Taiwanese Olympic medalist and former athlete Chi Cheng, identifying her country as “Taiwan” or “the Republic of China,” are pictured in Taipei on Jan. 15.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

For the past 34 years, Taiwan’s national Olympic team has been forced to call itself “Chinese Taipei.” An alliance of civic organizations has initiated a referendum proposal to have the nation’s team compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under the name ‘Taiwan.’

“It is my hope that I will live to see Taiwanese athletes being introduced [at the Olympic Games] under the name ‘Taiwan’ as I had the opportunity to do so when I was young,” Chi Cheng (紀政), Olympic bronze medalist in the 80m hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, said in an interview with the Taipei Times.

On Feb. 5, Chi submitted the proposal to the Central Election Commission after collecting 4,488 petition forms. On March 23, the commission announced that the proposal had passed its review and the petition drive could enter its second stage.

The proposed referendum asks: “Do you agree that ‘Taiwan’ be used as the [nation’s] full name when applying for participation in international athletic competitions and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?”

According to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which was amended in December last year, the number of signatures in the second stage must surpass 1.5 percent of all eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, or about 280,000, to officially launch a referendum.

“‘Chinese Taipei’ is a name that does injustice [to the nation],” Chi said, adding that of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 206 members, Taiwan is the only one that cannot use its national title, flag and anthem at the Games.

“We hope to reinstate what we used to have — we are not seeking to change anything, but merely seeking to restore what used to be ours,” Chi said, referring to the nation competing as “Formosa,” with “TWN” as the national team’s abbreviation on the scoreboard at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and as “Taiwan” at the 1964 Tokyo and the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

To understand how the naming issue evolved, it is necessary to know the Republic of China’s (ROC) eventful history in the Olympic Games.

The ROC’s national Olympic committee was recognized by the IOC in 1922, and 19 of the 26 members of the ROC Olympic Committee relocated to Taiwan along with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 1949 after the latter lost the Chinese Civil War.

In 1952, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) applied to the IOC to participate in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, from which the Taiwanese team withdrew in protest after the IOC allowed the PRC to compete.

At its 50th session held in Athens in May 1954, the IOC recognized the PRC’s national Olympic committee in a 23-21 vote.

However the PRC from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in protest of the acceptance of two Chinese national Olympic committees by the IOC, which used the names “Peking China” and “Formosa China” to refer to the PRC and the ROC respectively.

That year, Taiwan competed in the Games as “Formosa China.”

The PRC’s national Olympic committee in a statement on Aug. 19, 1958, said that the IOC “in deliberate violation of its noble charter, recognized the so-called ‘Chinese National Amateur Athletic Federation’ of the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) clique in Taiwan as another Chinese Olympic committee, after recognizing the Chinese Olympic committee [All-China Athletic Federation] as the only legal Chinese committee, thus creating a situation of ‘two Chinas,’” and withdrew from the IOC and the Olympics.

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