Politics Trumps 'Olympic Spirit' in China-Taiwan Dispute
(CNSNews.com) - The Olympic Games are supposed to embody a spirit of peace and friendship, but a year before Beijing hosts the 2008 summer event, the historic rift between China and Taiwan already has upset the touted harmony.
After lengthy negotiations, the two countries' Olympic committees have failed to resolve differences tied to their six-decades-old dispute, and Taiwan will no longer be included in the route of the traditional Olympic torch relay in the months leading up to the Aug. 8 opening ceremony in the Chinese capital.
The 2008 Olympic torch relay route, at 85,000 miles, reportedly will be the longest of its kind. Beginning in Greece in March, the torch will pass through cities on six continents, including San Francisco, before arriving in China in early May.
In a second stage, the relay will travel extensively throughout China, including a controversial trip up Mount Everest, until ending in Beijing for the August opening ceremony.
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) announced at the weekend that the torch would no longer go through Taipei, as originally planned.
"The responsibility for this rests entirely with the Taiwan authorities," said BOCOG executive vice-president Jiang Xiaoyu, accusing Taipei of "vile" conduct that violated the Olympic Charter.
Taiwan's Sports Minister Yang Chung-ho said China had reversed on an earlier agreement. Each side accused the other of allowing politics to impact sport.
Taiwan objected to the Chinese organizers' insistence that Taiwanese flags and emblems and the Taiwanese national anthem not be used at events along the 15-mile relay route.
Taiwan had also asked for the Taipei stop to be scheduled in the first segment of the route -- when the torch is moving between Asian cities outside of China -- rather than during the second, internal stage, which it said would imply that Taiwan is part of China.
The BOCOG official said Taiwan had created hurdles after originally agreeing to a set of principles, among them that it would accept International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations regarding flags and songs.
He said Taiwan's Olympic committee had "the responsibility to coordinate with all the relevant authorities to promise that any flag, emblem or song not conforming to the [IOC] regulations will not be used in the process of the Olympic torch relay."
The head of Taiwan's Olympic committee, Tsai Chen-wei, told the island's Central News Agency earlier that while the committee could guarantee that the Taiwanese athletes who carried the torch would abide by the agreement, it would be impossible to make demands of people gathering along the route. They were free to wave any flag or sing any song they chose, Tsai said.
The Taiwanese government disputes China's claim to the island, and wants the self-ruled democracy of 23 million people -- the world's 16th largest economy -- to be allowed to join the international community as a country in its own right.
China has threatened to use force if necessary to prevent Taiwan's formal breakaway. It works tirelessly to deny Taiwan recognition in the international community -- including in the sports arena.
Under IOC regulations, Taiwan is only allowed to compete in Olympic events as "Chinese Taipei," a convention tolerated by Beijing because it complies with its stance that the island is part of China.
Also, under IOC agreements reached with Taiwan in the 1980s, as a condition of the island participating, its teams are required to use the Olympic flag and anthem rather than national symbols.
The implications of that agreement were evident two weeks ago, when officials of the country's basketball body -- the "Chinese Taipei Basketball Association" -- wrangled with spectators who waved Taiwanese flags in support of their team at a game against a team from China.
Taiwan last week failed in its 15th consecutive attempt to win admission to the United Nations. It lost its seat in 1971, when the General Assembly voted to expel Taiwan from the "China" seat in favor of the communist government which was established in Beijing as a result of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
In a new Zogby International poll commissioned by the Taiwan government, 55 percent of U.S. respondents said the U.N. should admit Taiwan and 61 percent said the U.S. should throw its support behind Taiwan's bid.
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