Badminton gold medalist Wang declares himself from Taiwan, Chinese competitor Li congratulates ‘China’s Taipei team’
Taiwan’s badminton duo on Saturday (July 31) not only captured the country’s first Olympic gold in the sport, but their win over a Chinese team meant that the Taiwanese national flag’s anthem was played in front of Chinese athletes for the first time in Olympic history, with both sides having very different takes on the political significance.
In the first set of the men’s badminton team finals on Saturday, Lee Yang (李洋) and Wang Chi-lin (王齊麟) found themselves in a tight contest with China’s Liu Yuchen (劉雨辰) and Li Junhui (李俊慧) but managed to pull ahead 21-18. The second set went more smoothly for the Taiwanese team, with a 21-12 win, securing the gold and Taiwan’s first-ever medal in badminton.
During the medal award ceremony, for the first time in Olympic history, Taiwanese athletes stood at the top of the podium as their Chinese opponents watched the white Chinese Taipei Olympic flagrise to the tune of Taiwan’s national flag. The song, which dates back to the 1930s, is normally played after the national anthem during flag ceremonies.
Pressure from China has prevented Taiwan’s national anthem from being played at Olympic competitions. Instead, the anthem of the Taiwanese national flag has been played, but the lyrics for the song were changed for the Olympics, with references to the actual national flag excised.
After the medal ceremony on Saturday evening, Wang repeated on his Facebook page what he had posted the previous evening after beating Indonesians Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, but this time in English for more emphasis: “I am Wang Chi Lin. I am from Taiwan.” Wang’s patriotic post soon gained a staggering 992,000 likes, 65,000 comments, and 10,000 shares.
Wang’s Chinese opponent, Li Junhui, on his Weibo page apologized for coming in second place and thanked “the Great Motherland,” his coaches, and other people behind the scenes and expressed regret for disappointing them. He then closed by stating, “Lastly, congratulations to “China’s Taipei Team,” which he followed with three Chinese flags.
The Republic of China first competed in the Olympics in 1932, but in 1975, the People’s Republic of China applied to participate in the games and insisted that the Republic of China be decertified in the process.
After much controversy over whether the Republic of China could participate in the 1976 Montreal games, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau suggested that it compete as “Taiwan” as a compromise. The Republic of China government refused his terms at the time and boycotted the games.
Taiwan was not allowed back into the Olympics until the International Olympic Committee had passed the Nagoya Resolution in 1979, obliging Taiwan to use the name “Chinese Taipei” but barring its national flag and anthem. Instead, all subsequent Taiwanese Olympic teams have been forced to fly the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag and play a modified version of the national flag anthem at medals ceremonies.