Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sports boss says rejecting torch relay won't hurt athletes

Some optismistic news on the torch relay debacle.

Taipei Times by Max Hirsch- Thursday, May 03, 2007, Page 3

The nation's membership in the International Olympics Commit-tee (IOC) will not be revoked as a result of rejected the route for the Olympic torch relay, the chairman of the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports said yesterday.

Taiwan's athletes would participate in the Beijing Olympics "as long as damage to the nation's sovereignty is avoided," Jongher Yang (楊忠和) said.

Yang made the comments as he fielded questions from angry legislators during a meeting of the legislature's Education and Culture Committee about the spurning of Beijing's torch relay plan.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) made the decision to reject the relay, even though the sports council was the one that made the announcement, Yang said.

The sports council rejected the torch relay during a televised press conference last Thursday night, two hours after Beijing had announced that Taiwan would be included in the relay route.

"The decision was made in a meeting in which the Mainland Affairs Council raised objections to the route because it belittled our sovereignty," he said, refusing to say exactly who had raised the objections.

Several Cabinet agencies, including the MAC, the sports council and the Government Information Office, said Beijing had violated a deal with Taiwan about the relay by referring to the country as "Taipei, China" instead of by its IOC title -- "Chinese Taipei."

However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) said that China had never used the title "Taipei, China" in any official documents related to the Beijing Olympics.

She said the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee had signed an agreement with Beijing on the torch route after getting permission from the Cabinet to do so.

"What's the real reason behind your agreeing to the route with Beijing and then reneging on it?" Lee asked Yang, who told her that "Taipei, China" is used on China's Olympic committee Web site.

Meanwhile, KMT Legislator Huang Chih-hsiung (黃志雄) -- an Olympic silver medalist in taekwondo -- yesterday launched an online signature campaign to urge the government to change its stance on the torch relay.

"Instead of worrying that Taiwan's sovereignty will be degraded by the route, why not let people line the streets to welcome the Olympic torch to demonstrate Taiwan's identity?" Huang said.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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