Houston Community News >> Olympic Torch Won't Enter Taiwan

9/21/2007 TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - The International Olympic Committee said Friday that negotiations between Taiwan and China on the torch relay route for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games are at a dead end, and the torch will not be coming to Taiwan.

The announcements end a five-month saga that began when Taiwan turned down a proposal by the Beijing Organizing Committee to place the island next to the Chinese territory of Hong Kong on the prestigious relay route.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing claims the island as its own, and works hard to deny it any trappings of sovereignty.

The Taiwanese government of President Chen Shui-bian tries just as hard to emphasize its separateness, and makes no secret of its eventual goal of formal independence.

In rejecting the torch route, Taiwan officials said the Taiwan-Hong Kong contiguity made the island appear to be a part of China, despite their separate status. It said it would only participate when China stopped "downgrad(ing) Taiwanese sovereignty."

Negotiations on ending the impasse began in the spring, but have ended, the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

A "solution between the two has not been found," the e-mail said. "The route will now have to go ahead without a stop in Chinese Taipei."

"Chinese Taipei" is a term often used internationally for the island or its sports teams.

At a Taipei news conference, Taiwan Olympic Committee Chairman Tsai Chen-wei said that the IOC had demanded a Sept. 20 cutoff date for negotiations on the relay, and that with the deadline having passed, Taiwan could not be on the route.

"It's impossible to continue (the negotiations)," Tsai said. "There will be no time to prepare for the torch relay."

In a statement posted on its Web site, the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said Taiwan was to blame for the impasse.

"The Taiwanese authorities violated the Olympic Charter and manipulated the arrangements for the Taiwan leg of the relay for political purposes ... creating a vile precedent of an International Olympic Committee member refusing the torch relay within its jurisdiction," the statement said.

The failed torch negotiations constitute a bitter blow to the IOC, which has long seen the Olympic movement as a way to overcome political differences between even the most intractable of foes. It has high hopes that North and South Korea -- still technically at war -- will field a joint team at the Beijing Games in 2008. Talks on such a team are now occurring between the parties.

Contributed by AP