Wed, Nov 21, 2018 - Page 3 News List

2018 ELECTIONS: Poll would not affect athletes: groups

EMPTY THREAT?Proponents of a name change for the national team said that the IOC cannot reject an application beforehand and has only expressed its ‘opinion’

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Olympic medalist Chi Cheng, third left, and other initiators of the “Taiwan 2020” campaign yesterday call on the public to support their name-change referendum, scheduled for Saturday, at a news conference in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

A referendum to request a name change for the national team from “Chinese Taipei” to “Taiwan” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would not affect athletes’ right to compete in the Games, a coalition of civic groups that launched the referendum said yesterday.

“Our proposed referendum is in line with the Olympic Charter, as well as the Lausanne Agreement, so it would not cause the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee [CTOC] to be suspended or lose membership, or anything that could affect our athletes’ rights,” said George Chang (張燦鍙), one of the campaigners for the referendum.

The referendum, one of 10 to be held on Saturday alongside the nine-in-one elections, has drawn repeated warnings from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since May, allegedly due to pressure from China.

The IOC said that it would not approve the name change due to the Lausanne Agreement, an arrangement it signed with the CTOC in 1981 that requires Taiwan to compete under the name “Chinese Taipei” and fly the CTOC flag at international sports events.

In a letter sent to the CTOC and the Sports Administration on Friday, the IOC reiterated that the team’s name is determined by the 1981 agreement, saying that: “Any attempt to exercise undue pressure on the CTOC to breach the 1981 agreement and/or to act against the decision of the IOC Executive Board would be considered as external interference, which might expose the CTOC to the protective measures set out in the Olympic Charter.”

While the letter raised concerns that the referendum could lead to athletes being banned from competing in the Games, Chang said that would be against the charter.

The IOC’s letter should be understood as “an expression of opinion, rather than a formal ruling on the matter,” he said.

“According to the Olympic Charter, they do not have the power to reject an application before it is submitted and we have the right to apply for a name change,” he added.

Campaign convener Yang Chung-ho (楊忠和), former director-general of the Sports Administration, said that he has “read the entire Olympic Charter and did not find any rule on any page that bans a name change.”

“There is no way submitting an application would affect the rights of athletes. Unless the CTOC pretends to be the victim and asks the IOC to suspend it, the referendum would not lead to its suspension,” he added.

Online news outlet Taiwan People News chairman Chen Yung-hsing (陳永興) said that past instances have shown that the IOC prioritizes athletes’ rights over their national Olympic committee.

When former Brazilian Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman was charged with corruption, the IOC suspended the body, but the right of Brazilian athletes to compete in events was unaffected, Chen said, adding: “Taiwanese athletes would absolutely not be banned from competing in the Games.”

“We are promoting the referendum to protect the dignity of Taiwanese athletes,” he said. “When we travel abroad, who would identify themselves as coming from ‘Chinese Taipei?’ The answer is always Taiwan.”

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