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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Chinese Taipei' Plays To Olympic Anthem

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- Softball player Chien Chen-ju smiles and shrugs in resignation when reminded that Taiwan won't be hearing its anthem at the Atlanta Olympics.


"Of course we wonder, 'Why does it have to be like this?' But for us, the game is what's really important," she said.


Taking batting practice at a military base-turned sports center, Chien and her teammates wear uniforms reading "Chinese Taipei," the clumsy compromise name that allows Taiwan to compete in international sports under the hostile gaze of rival China.


Taiwan's athletes are not expected to win many medals at Atlanta, but if they do end up on the winners' stand, they will be honored by the Olympic anthem and flag, not their own.


The conditions are set by China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to any of the trappings of sovereignty. The hostility was underscored two months ago when China conducted a series of missile tests and war games near the Taiwan coast.


In the late 1970s, China took Taiwan's seat on the International Olympic Committee, and the country's flag and anthem were forbidden when Taiwan's athletes returned to Olympic competition in 1984 as Chinese Taipei.


Taiwanese athletes have learned to live with the restrictions, but they don't necessarily accept them.


Sprinter Wang Huei-chen tearfully declared at the 1994 Asian Games she would readily trade her 200 meter gold medal just to see Taiwan's flag flying.


"Yes it's disappointing. This is a matter of our national dignity," said Taiwan's top archer, Lin Yi-yun.


In December 1994, China's representatives threatened to boycott the 2002 Asian games if they were held in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung's bid lost out to that of Pusan, South Korea.


China took a hard line, despite Taiwan's major concession of allowing the Chinese flag to fly at an Olympic conference meeting in Kaohsiung.


The treatment of Kaohsiung's bid "was extremely regrettable," said Kevin Chen, deputy secretary general of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Council.


"Though we thought we were part of the Olympic family, it turned out we still weren't given a fair chance."


China accuses Taiwan of using sports for political ends and forced President Lee Teng-hui's name off the guest list for the 1994 Asian Games by threatening a boycott.


China has hinted at another boycott by warning Lee's attendance at Atlanta could "destroy the success of the games." Lee will not go to Atlanta, his office said, but Taiwan will take its three VIP tickets to ensure at least low-level representation.


The island of nearly 22 million will send a team of 75 athletes to Atlanta, competing in 13 events. Taiwan's strongest events are table tennis, archery, softball and judo.


Taiwanese taxpayers will reward winners handsomely. The government promises a prize of $368,000 for a gold medal, $200,000 for a silver and $110,000 for a bronze.


At the Tsoying Sports Training Center, the atmosphere is relaxed.


Archery coach Lin Kuei-chang pours his guests cups of green tea on a balmy afternoon as his squad strolls back after collecting their arrows.


"We don't have to go around barking orders, because our athletes have great self-discipline," Lin said. "And as a result, we've beaten the world's best, including the Chinese, whom we've beaten pretty badly."


Xu Jing, 29, who played on the Chinese national table tennis squad before marrying a Taiwanese and moving here, confirms the difference in attitudes. "There is tremendous pressure in representing China," Xu said. "Here there is less emphasis on winning at sports, and the training methods are less rigid."