Taiwan’s small team for next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing will not take part in the opening or closing ceremonies, the government said on Friday, blaming delayed flights, tough anti-COVID-19 rules and an early departure.
Chinese-claimed Taiwan had feared Beijing could “downgrade” Taiwan’s status by putting its athletes alongside those from Chinese-run Hong Kong at the opening ceremony, a senior Taiwan official familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.
Sub-tropical Taiwan, which has no winter sporting tradition and has never won a medal at the winter Games, is sending four athletes to Beijing, the same number as the last winter Games in 2018.
The government, which has said no officials will go, has now decided its athletes will be at neither the opening nor closing ceremonies.
Taiwan’s Sports Administration said the 15-member team, including trainers, would be arriving from different parts of the world, including the United States and Switzerland.
“According to the event’s pandemic prevention and entry policy, flights have been adjusted and delayed, and not all could arrive in Beijing by the opening ceremony on Feb. 4,” it said in a statement.
Athletes will need to get over their jet lag and get used to the venues, the administration added.
“Based on the protection of the athletes, high-standard pandemic prevention and control measures have been adopted to prevent any risk of infection; to accumulate combat strength, our delegation will not participate in the opening ceremony.”
Because the team is small, they will not wait around after their events are over and will go home, meaning on the day of the closing ceremony most will already have left, and they will not be there, it said.
The Beijing Games are happening at a time of heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, including repeated Chinese military activity near the island.
Taiwan competes in most sporting events, including the Olympics, as “Chinese Taipei” at the insistence of Beijing, which sees democratically governed Taiwan as part of “one China.”
On Wednesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office referred to Taiwan’s team as being from “China, Taipei,” rather than the official terminology of “Chinese Taipei.”
That drew a rebuke from Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council which said China intentionally used the wrong name.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Toby Davis and William Mallard)