The national Olympic team yesterday departed for Japan to compete in the Tokyo Games starting on Friday.
The 134-strong Olympic delegation includes officials, support staff and 68 athletes, who are to compete in 18 sports through Aug. 8.
Taiwan is competing in the Games under the name Chinese Taipei.
The delegation is led by Taiwan’s top female weightlifter, Kuo Hsing-chun (郭婞淳), who is to carry the team flag at the opening ceremony. It also includes world No. 1 women’s singles badminton player Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎), as well as athletes who are to compete in cycling, taekwondo, judo, shooting, canoeing, rowing and archery events.
Taiwan is also to compete in swimming, artistic gymnastics, table tennis, boxing and tennis, among other events.
Team members wore the red, white and blue uniform of the national squad and matching masks as they boarded their chartered flight. They traveled in one group to avoid coming into contact with others, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳), Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) and other government officials were at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) to give the team an official send-off.
The government had urged Taiwanese not to visit the airport to send off the team due to the pandemic. The team’s departure was livestreamed online.
A smaller group of Taiwanese athletes and support staff arrived in Tokyo last week and several similar small groups are scheduled to depart Taiwan for Japan in the following days.
Disease prevention coordinators are among the support staff for the first time, due to the pandemic.
The Sports Administration is targeting medals in weightlifting, badminton, artistic gymnastics, boxing, archery, javelin and karate.
Taiwan won one gold and two bronze medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Yesterday, controversy erupted after Tai posted an Instagram story of herself sitting in economy class during the flight to Tokyo.
Pan had last year said that the nation’s Olympic team would travel in business class.
Su on Facebook last night said that he called Tai to apologize and instructed the Sports Administration to convey the government’s apologies to the rest of the team.
“The heroes of the Olympics are the athletes, not the accompanying officials,” Su said, after reports emerged that coaches and medics traveled in business class.
Su said that after the Olympics, he would instruct the Ministry of Education to report on the matter and hold those responsible to account.
The Sports Administration last night said that the athletes were seated in economy because of their number and the need to space them apart due to COVID-19 concerns.
On the return flight, it pledged to prioritize athletes for business-class seating.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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