China’s Olympic dirty trick against Taiwan?
Before writing about other major issues, this argument over the Olympic schedule got my attention. It may seem trivial but I can’t help but mention it.
DPP lawmakers voiced their concern about the baseball game schedule. During the Olympics, there are 4 baseball games every day, starting 10.30am, 11.30am, 6pm and 7pm on each day. Taiwan is scheduled to play Japan at 7pm on 14th August and then China the following morning at 10.30am. It is true that some teams have to play an evening game followed by another one next morning BUT no one else has to play the last slot in the evening, followed by the earliest one the next day even if they have to play within less than 24 hours. Taiwanese players have at least an hour less to rest between two games compared to the other teams who have to play a morning game after having competed the previous evening.
The baseball game is estimated to go on for 3-3.5 hours (The game doesn’t necessarily start on time and Japan is really strong) and there may be a press conference after the game. It takes about an hour to get back to the athletes village. So the players probably won’t get back to the village till around midnight. After they get back, they have to eat, shower… This means the very earliest they can go to bed is about 1am. To make a 10.30am game the following morning, the athletes will probably have to arrive at the stadium around 8am. As it takes 1 hour to get there, the players have to leave the village by 7.00am. Let’s give them an hour to get ready. Then, they will need to get up at 6.00am the latest. So, they’ll be lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep.
Japan is one of the strongest in baseball and Taiwan is good – stronger than China generally. It is suspected that China wants the Taiwanese players to be worn out by Japan and suffer the lack of sleep before playing them so that they have a shot at beating Taiwan or even getting a medal.
Game schedules are always set by the host country and reviewed by the IBAF but the IBAF usually respects the host’s decisions. If IBAF or any participating country has any concern, they could raise the issue and negotiate a solution. However, the Sports Affairs Council in Taiwan denied that the schedule would be a disadvantage to Taiwan, avoiding the point that Taiwan is the only team which has to play at 7pm and then 10.30am the next day. They estimated the travel time to be 30 minutes, not 1 hour, and argued the players were all used to play back to back games. SAC did not talk about a press conference and said the players could leave at 10pm on the 14th and would not have to get up until 7am the following morning, which would give them 7.5 hours sleep. They also emphasised that playing a weak team (China) after a strong one (Japan) is better than playing another strong team the following morning.
Some might accept SAC’s explanation but I am not totally convinced, especially when Ma’s government has not been the most credible and has always been on China’s side. It doesn’t matter whether the players get 4 hours or 7.5 hours sleep. It doesn’t change the fact that Taiwanese players have an hour less to rest between two games compared to the other teams who have to play a morning game after having played the previous evening.
Apart from the tightest schedule, China making Taiwan play Japan right before playing them… hmm… Some may think that other countries play the same trick when they host a major event, which may be true, but Taiwan certainly got the toughest draw here. KMT lawmakers criticised DPP for lacking confidence in our athletes. Where have I heard this before? That’s right – the 2008 presidential election campaign. Ma dismissed Mr. Frank Hsieh’s criticisms on his economic and China policies with exactly the same kind of argument – ‘lacking confidence in Taiwan’ but now, everything Hsieh questioned or predicted has happened. A government should look to protect their players’ interest and make sure they are fairly treated no matter what but it looks like KMT’s answer to anything unfair or risky that they are unwilling or unable to address is ‘confidence’.
If my suspicion about the Chinese is true, then where is this ‘warming relation’ and ‘good will’ the Chinese government and KMT keep going on about? If China puts Taiwan under such an disadvantage, hoping it would go unnoticed (with the help of KMT), and then their leader wished Taiwanese athletes good luck in front of cameras… what do we call it? The ‘Chinese-style’ good will?