Put Nationalist Sentiment to Rest and Honor the Olympic Spirit
Want Daily Editorial, August 1, 2021
The Olympic Games are leading international sporting events that offer Taiwan the opportunity to draw world attentions. Due to international realities, Taiwan’s athletes can only participate under the name of “Chinese Taipei.” During the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, an NHK anchor introduced Taiwan's team as "Taiwan" instead of the obligatory "Chinese Taipei," touching a sensitive nerve of Cross-Strait relations and of East Asian history. It also triggered a debate in Taiwan to select between the names of “Chinese Taipei team” or “Taiwan team.” The sentiment of unlimited nationalism has interfered with the most important sporting events and contradicted the Olympic spirit of making peace and promoting tolerance.
Athletes are the main subjects of the Olympic Games
As for the names of the participants, there are a ROC and a ROT team in the Tokyo Olympics, but none of them represent Taiwan. ROC is the abbreviation for the Russian Olympic Committee and is used by the Russian team because they have been banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) due to earlier doping violations. The Russian athletes can only participate in the Tokyo Olympics as individuals and no Russian national flag or anthem are allowed even when they win a medal. ROT is the abbreviation for the Refugee Olympic Team which was created in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It is to support international refugees and give outstanding athletes who are displaced an opportunity to take part in the Olympic Games.
The ancient Olympic Games was to seek peace among Greek city-states and has become the manifestation of overall performance of human pursuit for peace, beauty, belief and culture. The Modern Olympic Games was reborn to seek world peace and strong physique. The Olympic spirit holds that the practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The IOC amended the “Olympic Charter” in 1995 to lift the restriction that only independent states can be IOC members. Modern Olympic Games increasingly regard athletes as the main subjects of competition. Despite that the majority of athletes join the Olympic Games representing a country, yet the competition among nation-states is not the goal of the Olympic Games. The fact that both ROC and ROT teams are taking part in the Tokyo Olympics fully reflect this trend and the Olympic spirit. It deserves the deep thought of our countrymen.
Partly due to historical memory and geopolitical conflict, East Asian countries tend to fall into nationalist sentiment in international sporting events. The shouting, cursing, provoking and insulting deprive the nature and fun of sports and give athletes unnecessary burden of national pride. It may be hard to avoid issues of national identity and conflict for any competition between countries, yet mainstream media and governments in the West usually won’t emphasize or take advantage of it. Any cyber bullying of athletes is to be dealt with in full accordance with the law.
Nationalism is not conducive to international exchange and cooperation
In the final match of the European Cup 2020, England lost to Italy in penalty shoot-out and yielded the football championship. A few black players who missed penalties for England became targets of online racist abuse. The government of the United Kingdom demanded the concerned social media companies to hand over necessary data to investigate the abusers’ legal responsibilities. In terms of Olympic broadcasting, a number of countries emphasize the background and training of athletes rather than their ranking. Very few have ever made comments that their athletes have to beat certain foreign opponents. National pride has nothing to do with the success or failure of athletes and we should not demand athletes to defend overall national interest.
In order to pursue personal career development or higher athletic excellence, it is common for athletes to change nationality. The 46-year-old Uzbekistan gymnast Oksana Chusovitina has taken part in 8 Olympic Games including the Tokyo Olympics. She had competed for Germany many times. It is even more common for table tennis players where Chinese players have been repeatedly competing for countries other than China. Both the gold and silver medals in table tennis received by our country were won by Chen Jing who was born in mainland China. Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-ching who just won bronze medal in table tennis mixed doubles have been trained in China’s Hainan Province and hired a Chinese coach. Narrow nationalism ignores the importance of international exchange and cooperation in athlete training and only serves to strangle the arena and future growth of athletes.
It is not an easy task for Japan to host the 2020 Summer Olympics amid the pandemic. All athletes deserve our admiration for attending the Tokyo Olympics under the circumstances. The Tokyo Olympics added “together” in their motto and the new Olympics motto has been changed to “Faster, Higher, Stronger—Together.” Let us lay down unnecessary nationalist sentiment and enjoy the rest of the games and give our athletes enough space to excel themselves and appreciate the fun of competing against the best of the best and reap the fruits of hard work.