The Taichung East Asian Youth Games cancellation and what can be done about it

It should come as no surprise that Olympic organizations are beholden to China, but the way the EAYG were cancelled offers some chance of recompense for Taichung

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(By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The decision by the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) to remove Taichung as hosts of the East Asian Youth Games continues to reverberate around Taiwan. People are angry, and justifiably so. But where should that anger be targeted and what, if anything, can Taiwan do about it?

On the face of it, the decision to strip Taichung of the games appears to be yet another example of a major international organization kowtowing to the will of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

As a recent survey has shown, most Taiwanese people are in no doubt that the CCP is to blame for the decision. And none of the very limited information that has been offered up by the EAOC appears to contradict this. 

The chain of events which led up to the EAOC speaks volumes about the underhanded tactics that appear to have been used. The EAOC held an emergency meeting on July 24 to discuss the 2019 East Asian Youth Games. No one involved on the Taichung team was invited to that meeting or indeed even informed that it was to take place. 

Furthermore, the Taichung bid has not been informed about what EAOC rules that meeting determined they had broken. Nor were they given an opportunity to defend themselves. Even the letter sent to inform them of the decision was offensively short and abrupt in its wording. It is not just the decision itself which is truly outrageous, but also the means by which it was reached too.

The EAOC and the IOC; corrupt bodies beholden to Communist China 

The cancellation of the games is the EAOC showing a level of democratic accountability that the Chinese Communist Party themselves would be proud of. They should be thoroughly ashamed of their actions and it would be hoped that their parent organization, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would be quick to step in and condemn such behavior. 

But, of course, nothing of the sort happened. The IOC has shamefully abdicated all responsibility for the decision insisting that it is was entirely the decision of the EAOC and washing their hands of any responsibility. 

Should this come as a surprise? Not really. Much like football’s governing body FIFA, the IOC has been mired in scandal and corruption for years and no one should be in the least bit surprised that when China says "jump," the IOC asks, "how high?" 

With most democratic countries unwilling to cough up the money needed to host Olympic Games and World Cups, these international bodies are more than willing to turn to autocratic states with shocking human rights records, but deep pockets, and who want the positive publicity from hosting major events. 

Because the IOC needs their funds, they therefore have no choice to bend to their will. This has seen backroom deals with Russia over their state-sponsored doping programs, widespread allegations of corruption and blackmail over the awarding of tournaments, and plenty more controversies besides. 

With China scheduled to host the Winter Olympics in 2022, both the IOC and the EAOC can ill afford to be in their bad-books. So, when it comes to Taiwan, they are, like so many other international corporate bodies, beholden to the economic might of one of the world’s worst authoritarian regimes. 

Unfortunately for Taiwan, which has shown with last year’s Universiade in Taipei that it is more than capable of successfully hosting major sporting events, this is likely to mean that any attempts to overturn the decision are destined to fail. 

It has been suggested in some quarters that the decision could have been taken in response to moves by some campaigners to hold a referendum on using the name Team Taiwan rather than Chinese Taipei at future Olympic events. 

This has been neither confirmed or denied, but even if it is true, is absolutely no justification for cancelling the Games completely. That decision does not just hurt Taiwan, it also damages the young athletes who have been working and training towards this tournament.

In the face of this outrage, Taichung has held its head up high and gone about its response in a dignified and forceful way, for which the Taichung team, and the City’s Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), deserve great credit. 

What steps can Taichung take now? 

They are absolutely right to formally appeal the decision and it will be interesting to see if that process is allowed, what information about the decision it throws up, and whether Taichung is actually given a fair opportunity to state its case. 

If, or as most people suspect when, that appeal process fails, what options will be left open to Taichung then? 

One possibility could be to take the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which supposedly offers independent arbitration on sports-related legal disputes. It would be interesting to see if they really are independent of Beijing’s influence.

Given that Taichung argues that the decision has put the EAOC in breach of the contract they have signed with the city, it seems that further legal action is inevitable. With an estimated NT$676 million (US$22 million) already spent on preparations for the Games, it would be a dereliction of duty to Taichung’s taxpayers not to seek compensation for that amount. 

There might also be grounds for to sue for further damages for the impact this decision has had on Taichung, and indeed Taiwan’s, global reputation. If such action were to be successful, it is to be hoped that any damages paid would be invested into grassroots sports in Taiwan. 

Regardless of whether any possible legal actions are successful or not, Team Taiwan will now have to give very serious consideration about whether or not to participate in future EAOC and IOC events. Certainly, should the 2019 East Asian Youth Games be reassigned to another host city, this question will require very serious consideration. 

It would be a desperate shame not to have Taiwanese participation in future Olympic events. But can Taiwan really continue to participate in events organized by international bodies which have demonstrated such a profound lack of respect for Taiwan and the Taiwanese people? It looks very difficult right now.