A week ago, Taiwan said it would not participate in the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Beijing. Then the island democracy reversed its decision, citing pressure from the International Olympic Committee.
In at first declining, Taiwanese officials had pointed to inconvenient flight schedules and pandemic restrictions. But they are also engaged in a political rivalry with Beijing over the Olympics, embodied in one persistent issue: the name of Taiwan’s delegation.
Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims as its territory, has for decades been compelled to compete in international sports events as “Chinese Taipei” rather than as Taiwan or under its formal name, Republic of China. The International Olympic Committee’s rules prohibit delegations from Taiwan from using any symbols suggesting that the island is a sovereign nation.
When Taiwan said on Monday that it had decided to take part in the opening ceremony, officials from the island urged China not to try to use the Games to suppress Taiwan. They did not go into specifics, but some Taiwanese officials worry that Beijing might use the Games to undermine the island’s status.
The dispute centers on the Chinese rendering of the Taiwanese delegation’s name, “Chinese Taipei.” Officially, the delegation’s Chinese name is Zhonghua Taipei. But officials on the mainland often refer to the Taiwanese delegation as Zhongguo Taipei. Zhongguo is the Chinese name for China; referring to the Taiwanese delegation as such implies that the athletes and the island they represent are part of China.
At the ceremony on Friday, the event’s announcer stuck to the official, “Chinese Taipei” version of the delegation’s name, as in the 2008 ceremony in Beijing.
The island’s delegation is not using the name Taiwan on its national team uniforms, singing the Taiwanese anthem or carrying the island’s flag during the opening ceremony.
“I actually feel a bit disappointed that I can’t compete with the name of Taiwan,” Lin Sin-rong, a luger who is competing in Beijing, said in January. “When it comes to China, I do what I should and keep what I shouldn’t say in my heart.”