When athletes from Taiwan carried their flag onto the stage for the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, they marched with other countries that began with the letter ‘T.’ Officially, they did not represent Taiwan, they represented ‘Chinese Taipei.’ The athletes did not carry the flag of the Republic of China (ROC), which had been used in Olympic Games up until the 1970s, but rather the official Chinese Taipei Olympic flag sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. This flag is white with a blue and red outline of a five-pedaled flower, wrapped around a small white sun enclosed in a blue background–the symbol found on the ROC flag–with the five Olympic rings below.
Prior to 1949, the ROC represented China in three Olympic Games: 1932, 1936 and 1948, according to the Chinese Olympic Committee Web site.
Since the the end of the civil war, Taiwan competed as the Republic of China in six Summer Games and two Winter Games, the last being the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. The ROC withdrew from the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal to protest competing under the name ‘Taiwan’.
A few years prior to the ROC’s last Olympic appearance, China’s official seat in the United Nations was transferred in 1971 from the ROC to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which set off a chain reaction in which countries began cutting ties with Taiwan in favor of China.
Following the switch, the ROC rejected the proposed name ‘Taiwan, China,’ arguing that it implied Taiwan was China’s subordinate. Furthermore, the ruling Kuomintang government at the time insisted that the ROC was still the only legitimate China, another reason why it would not accept the name ‘Taiwan.’ In 1979, the ROC and PRC reached a compromise on the issue, with the help of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Executive Committee of the IOC voted for the Nagoya Resolution, which said that Taiwan would compete as the ‘Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee’.
In 1980, the PRC made its first appearance in the Olympics as the official China. After an eight-year hiatus, athletes from Taiwan arrived in Los Angeles for the 1984 Summer Games, where they competed as ‘Chinese Taipei’ for the first time. This also marked the first time Chinese Taipei would compete alongside the PRC.
Although it was the ROC that initially insisted on using ‘Chinese Taipei,’ ironically now it is the PRC that enforces this rule. In the past, China might have accepted the name ‘Taiwan’ since it would signify ‘Taipei’s acknowledgement of Beijing’s legitimacy as the government of all China’, an article by the Taiwan-based National Policy Foundation stated.
Since the adoption of ‘Chinese Taipei,’ the name has been used to represent Taiwan not only in the Olympic Games, but also in all international athletic competition (including The World Games) as well as in other international bodies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Article by Lisa Liang - Taiwan Journal, February 1, 2007