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Olympic torch to bypass Taiwan
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The torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will not pass through Taipei, a senior official from the organizing committee (BOCOG) said on Friday night, saying "the Taiwan authorities unilaterally ended the talks and closed the door for discussion".

"On Thursday, Tsai Chen-wei, president of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, said in a letter to BOCOG that the committee will not further discuss the issue of the Olympic torch relay passing through Taipei," Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG executive vice-president, said.

"On the same night, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially told BOCOG the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch will have to go ahead without a stopover in Taiwan," he said.

In April, BOCOG unveiled its route for the torch, which will travel 137,000 km and visit 135 cities. It will be the longest relay in Olympic history.

According to the original plan, the Olympic flame was to go from Ho Chi Minh City to Taipei before visiting Hong Kong, Macao and dozens of cities on the mainland.

But Taiwan authorities and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee said after the announcement of the route they could not accept it, claiming it "belittles" Taiwan.

"BOCOG expresses its deep regret that the Olympic torch relay will not visit Chinese Taipei. The high expectations of the Taiwan compatriots to pass the Olympic flame will not be realized," Jiang said.

"The responsibility for this rests entirely with the Taiwan authorities."

According to Jiang, after Taiwan's initial rejection of the route, BOCOG has had several rounds of talks and exchanges of letters with them, but the Taiwan side breached the agreement that the two sides reached before, which covered the following basic points:

Both parties are committed to abiding by the regulations, resolutions and practice of the IOC and together preserving the purity and sanctity of the Olympic torch relay and Olympic flame.

The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee will ensure the torch relay is conducted smoothly under its jurisdiction.

When the torch relay is conducted under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, the use of relevant flags, emblems and songs should strictly follow the relevant regulations of the IOC.

The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee is obliged to coordinate all concerned parties to ensure that flags, emblems and songs that are inconsistent with IOC regulations are not used during the torch relay.

"On September 12, Tsai sent us a letter to reject the consensus we reached and that's the main reason for the negotiations ending without a result," Jiang said.

"The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee broke its promises again and again and created political hurdles for the discussion."

Jiang also called it a "vile precedent" that violated the Olympic Charter.

"The Taiwan authorities violated the Olympic Charter and manipulated the arrangements for the Taiwan stop of the relay for political purposes.

"It created a vile precedent by being the first IOC member to refuse the torch relay to pass within its jurisdiction," Jiang said.

The relay route will be adjusted and it is possible the torch will go from Ho Chi Minh City direct to Hong Kong, Jiang said.

But he said Beijing still welcomes the Chinese Taipei sports delegation to participate in the Games.

"We will provide first-class facilities and services for them, just as we will for all the delegations," Jiang said.

(China Daily September 22, 2007)

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