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Reinstatement in the Olympic Movement

2004-03-27 15:07:00 COC Website

    When China's legitimate seat in the United Nations was restored in 1972 as a result of "ping pong diplomacy" and the re-opening of Sino-U.S. relations, it still remained outside the IOC and most other international sports organizations except the international Table Tennis Federation, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Skating Union. This was incompatible with the rapidly changing international situation. Many persons in the Olympic Movement wanted to make changes, recognizing that any international organization not including a country with one quarter of the world's population can hardly be complete.

    The first organization to take action was the Asian Games Federation (AGF). China had sent observers to the 1st Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951, but was barred from the 2nd-6th because, as was the case with the Olympic Games, of the "two Chinas" problem. When the 7th Asian Games were to be held in Tehran in 1974, the AGF had 21 member organizations, 10 of whose countries had established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Most of them, including those whose countries had not yet established diplomatic relations with China, held that the AGF should, even at the risk of being sanctioned by the IOC and international federations (IFs), accept China as a member and invite her to participate in the Asian Games, which would otherwise not be worthy of the name. In September 1973, the AGF held an executive meeting in Bangkok, at which Iran recommended that China be represented by the All-China Sports Federation in the AGF and Taiwan be expelled from it. Two months later, a resolution to this effect was passed at a special council meeting by a vote of 38 for, 13 against and 5 abstentions. 

    During and after the 7th Asian Games, to which China sent a 385- strong delegation, 13 Asian sports federations recognized China's right of representation. A breakthrough was made in the long-time blockade of Chinese athletes from the Olympic Movement, triggering off a series of similar actions taken by the IFs for fencing, weightlifting, basketball, wrestling, track and field, gymnastics, etc. Now people's eyes were fixed mainly on the IOC, which is regarded as the United Nations of sports and with which the Chinese Olympic Committee had severed its relations since 1958 because of the "two Chinas" problem. Would the IOC follow the UN and the Asian sports organizations in dealing with his problem? 

    In 1972, IOC President Brundage was replaced by Lord Killanin of Ireland who, with many others in the IOC, held that China should be reinstated in the IOC and that the only way out was to solve the Taiwan problem. According to .the Olympic Charter, only one national organization can represent China in an international sports organization. IOC President Killanin and Vice- President J .A. Samaranch visited China respectively in September 1977 and April 1978. They got a better understanding of the Chinese government's viewpoints. 

    On January 1, 1979, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which is China's highest organ of state power, promulgated the "Letter to Compatriots in Taiwan," calling on the whole Chinese people, Taiwan's authorities included, to strive for reunification and carry out navigation, trade and postal communications as well as cultural and scientific exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait The call produced a great impact at home and abroad and created favourable conditions for the restoration of China's seat in the IOC.

    In March 1979 representatives of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) invited to attend an IOC Executive Board meeting said that they were willing to have talks with representatives from Taiwan on the participation of Taiwanese athletes in the Olympic Games. If they would not go to Beijing, the COC's representatives might go to Taipei or another place for the talks. This idea aroused deep Interest among IOC executive members. 

    At the IOC Executive meeting President Killanin made two important observations. The first was that the IOC had recognized All-China Sports Federation under the name of "Chinese Olympic Committee." In other words, the recognition was a continuation of the Federation's membership in the lOC. The second was that no record could be found In the IOC's archives about its recognition of Taiwan's "Olympic Committee." Thus it emerged that Taiwan had never been granted formal recognition as a National Olympic Committee (NOC}. It was decided at the meeting that a round- table conference would be held at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne to solve the problem of China's right of representation in the IOC. The COC agreed to this proposal whereas Taiwan wanted to negotiate with President Killanin before the convention of any conference. 

    At the 81st IOC session held in Montevideo in 1979, the COC's representatives answered questions raised by members who were not clear about China's conditions and policies. Why was China's representation as it existed in the IOC said to be abnormal? Why was the IOC's recognition of Taiwan considered to run counter to the 10 Charter? How was it that Hong Kong is entitled to join the IOC while Taiwan was not? How was the jurisdiction of sports organizations in Taiwan to be defined? 

    The COC's representatives pointed out that, according to the Olympic Charter, only one National Olympic Committee can be recognized for a country. Since Taiwan is only a part of China, they argued, the recognition of a sports organization in Taiwan as a national organization does not conform to the Olympic Charter. Furthermore, the sports organization in Taiwan was into the list of recognized NOCs in 1954 without being discussed or put to vote at any meeting, without undergoing any legal procedure of affiliation. 

    According to Olympic principles, a NOC has the right to develop sports and make policies within its own framework. China had 30 (now 31) provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. All the local sports organizations may develop sports within the scope of their jurisdiction. Consequently, the COC agreed that the tasks of developing sport in Taiwan may be assigned to the sports organizations in Taiwan. but they argued that only one NOC could represent the whole country at the Olympic Games and in making contacts with other NOCs. 

    As for Hong Kong, the COC representatives pointed out that it is an entirely different issue not to be mentioned in the same breath as Taiwan. Taiwan is part of Chinese territory; it is neither a colony nor an independent area. Hong Kong is a Chinese territory, but nowadays has a status caused by an unequal treaty in history---historical issue that will be solved through proper channels in future. (Hong Kong will be returned to China in 1997 according to an agreement signed by the Chinese and British governments in 1988.)

    The COC representatives reaffirmed the basic principle at the meeting: There is only one China in the world, and that is the People's Republic of China. Taiwan is part of Chinese territory. Based on this principle, the IOC should recognize only one NOC for China, and that is the Chinese Olympic Committee with its headquarters in Beijing and representing the amateur athletes of the whole country. 

    However, in consideration of the actual situation in Taiwan and in order that the athletes there would have the opportunity to take part in international competitions, the COC agreed that the sports organization in Taiwan might stay in the IOC, on condition that it would not attach "Republic of China" to its name, nor use the appellation of "Taiwan" independently. Nor would it be allowed to use its "national flag" and "national anthem" and anything symbolic of the "Republic of China." The COC's approach was considered realistic and acceptable to many IOC members. 

    In mid-October 1979, the Federation International de Football Association passed a resolution that China be re-admitted and the football organization in Taiwan use the name of Chinese Taipei. 

    In the latter part of the same month, at a meeting held in Nagoya, the IOC Executive Board passed a resolution on the problem of China's representation, confirming the COC as the representative of the Olympic Movement in the whole of China using the national flag and national anthem of the People's Republic of China, while the Olympic committee in Taiwan area, as one of China's local organizations, can only use the name of "Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee" with its flag, anthem and emblem different from the original ones pending IOC's approval. The resolution was passed by the IOC members with a mail vote of 62for, 17 against and 2 abstentions. China was finally reinstated in the IOC.

    The Nagoya resolution displayed, on the one hand, adherence to the principle that there is only one China in the world and that is the People's Republic of China, and, on the other hand, flexibility in tactics by keeping the sports organization of Taiwan in the IOC as one of China's local organizations, thus putting an end to the 21-year-long abnormal "two Chinas" situation.

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