Temporarily, Russia’s sport can feel Taiwan’s pain

The banner that Taiwan’s Olympic Committee has been forced to use at the Olympic Games since 1981

On December 9th, 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal handed Russia a four-year ban from all major sporting events after the nation was accused of state-ordered tampering which involved a testing laboratory database in Moscow.

This means that the Russian flag and anthem wouldn’t be permitted at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the Peking 2022 Winter Olympics as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The happening in Japan was postponed on March 30th, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now supposed to begin on July 23rd, 2021 and finish on August 8th, so in this particular case the restrictions haven’t been put into practice yet.

Although Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev back then frankly admitted that significant, undeniable doping problems still existed in the Russian sporting community, he also spoke of “chronic anti-Russian hysteria”.

Nevertheless, Russian sportspersons who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal and didn’t benefit from past cover-ups would still be able to compete as neutral athletes.

At the end, in another ruling announced on December 17th, 2020 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, the ban was halved after an appeal against the decision encouraged by President Vladimir Putin.

According to the panel, the lighter penalty should not be read as validation for Russia’s actions. Instead, “It has considered matters of proportionality and, in particular, the need to effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport.”

For the 2021 World Men’s Handball Championship in Egypt taking place this month, another compromise was reached between the International Handball Federation (IHF) in Basel and Moscow.

A “Russian Handball Federation Team” wearing a neutral uniform would be allowed and the acronym RHF replace the normal International Olympic Committee (IOC) country code.

Ultimately, in its usual red and white shirts, with the national coat of arms changed to the federation badge and the usual sponsor logos in place, before the game the players only listened to the IHF’s own anthem and saluted the flag of a leaping player on a neutral white background without text, as the use of the term ‘Russia’ had to be avoided.

The Olympic Committee (ROCOC) of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, had been a full member of the IOC since January 1st, 1960.

After it was pushed to leave the United Nations (UN) in October 1971 following the admission of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the island became increasingly isolated and didn’t participate in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics due to the interference of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

A postal ballot by the Executive Committee of the IOC in October 1979 in Nagoya then decided that the situation was unsustainable, though recognized Taiwan’s National Olympic Committee in its present form on November 26th, 1979.

But to accommodate to the new political reality, the ROCOC was forced to change its name to Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and no longer allowed to use Taiwan’s national flag and anthem.

With the assistance of Juan Antonio Samaranch (1920-2010), long-time Spanish IOC President, an agreement between both sides was signed on March 23rd, 1981. It permits Taiwan to present itself as “Chinese Taipei”. Moreover, in the IOC directory it’s listed under “T”.

The new white, red and blue emblem of its Olympic Committee and its Olympic flag, shaped like a plum blossom, includes the colored Olympic rings. The patriotic «National Banner Song» from 1936 is used instead of the national anthem.

As for direct sports exchanges between China and Taiwan, Peking and Taipei agreed on April 6th, 1989 in Hong Kong that “Chinese Taipei” wouldn’t become “China Taipei” under any circumstances.

Taiwan competed for the first time under the new moniker at the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics without much success, but at the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics won silver in baseball, losing the final against Cuba.

So for a short time and completely different reasons, Russia will be able to experience the humiliation that Taiwan has had to endure during the last 40 years. Maybe that brings both countries a little closer.


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