When Taiwan’s Olympic athletes departed for the Tokyo Olympic Games on Monday last week, world No. 1 badminton player Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) posted a photograph on Instagram showing herself sitting in China Airlines economy class. She added a caption saying how she missed flying business class with EVA Airways.
The post immediately caused an uproar, with Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) issuing an apology and Sports Administration Director-General Chang Shao-hsi (張少熙) tendering his resignation. Even President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) apologized to the athletes for the second-class treatment.
The Sports Administration said that the athletes’ seating arrangements were based on disease prevention measures, apologizing to them for a lack of communication before the departure, but sports officials seemed to ignore prevention measures when seating the officials, coaches and administrative staff in business class.
The seating arrangements formed a sharp contrast, and also went against Tsai’s promise that Taiwanese athletes and coaches would travel in business class to major international competitions.
As the flight from Taipei to Tokyo takes less than four hours, the discomfort of sitting in the “checkerboard seating” would not have affected the athletes’ performance at the Games, so perhaps Tai’s Instagram post and a complaint by her father were simply expressions of discontent over the disparity in treatment.
Fierce criticism from legislators, journalists, Internet users and so-called “social justice warriors” has made Tai look like a “troublemaker.”
The question is whether this might have affected her emotionally. In which case, the criticism is having the opposite effect of what was intended. The most urgent task is to quickly bring the matter to an end so that the athletes can concentrate on their performance.
Meanwhile, journalists and Internet users are behaving like paparazzi in their search for the hotels where the officials, coaches, administrative staff and athletes are staying. They have even contrasted their accommodations with the Chinese athletes’ luxury ocean-view suites — which is amateurish.
Producing an outstanding professional athlete is not easy. An athlete’s self-discipline is key to achieving victory.
For example, in certain sports, the athletes are classed according to arbitrarily determined weight ranges, forcing them to constantly think about their weight. They must be extremely cautious with their regular training volume, diet, leisure time, and even medication if they have a cold or diarrhea. If an athlete fails a doping test due to a tiny mistake, medals and records could be taken away, and years of effort would have been in vain.
Coaches, administrative staff, team physiotherapists and assistants handle all of these details so that the athletes can be worry-free and compete at their peak.
This is Taiwan’s biggest-ever Olympic delegation, and hopefully the athletes can ignore the pressure, give their best performance and achieve great results.
Li Cheng-ta is an instructor at Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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