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Taiwan controversy at the 1976 Montreal Olympics

The Story


The Olympics begin tomorrow. But according to CBC Radio's Alan Maitland, one event has already taken place: "the diplomatic marathon hop-skip-and-jump." In this edition of As It Happens, Maitland interviews External Affairs Minister Allan MacEachen about the just-announced Taiwanese boycott. Taiwan has pulled out of the Games because Prime Minister Trudeau said the team couldn't compete under the name "China." In Canada's eyes, that name is now the strict domain of the People's Republic of China.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: July 16, 1976
Guest: Allan MacEachen
Host: Alan Maitland
Duration: 4:26

Did You know?


• The People's Republic of China (PRC) considers Taiwan to be just a territory of China, with the PRC being the sole Chinese government.
• The communist PRC had withdrawn from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1958. Prior to 1976, Taiwan had participated as "Republic of China" in all previous Olympics since the 1960 Games in Rome, and the PRC did not attend.

• In 1970, Canada officially recognized the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. As a result of this "one-China policy," Canada severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which had been calling itself the Republic of China.
• In 1975, the PRC applied to the IOC for restoration of its place in the Olympic Games.
• When applying to be let back into the Games in 1975, the PRC insisted that Taiwan be decertified from the Games.

• Between 1975 and the beginning of the '76 Games, there was much discussion between Canada, Taiwan, the PRC, the United States and the IOC about this issue. Canada supported the PRC. The United States was on Taiwan's side and even threatened to back out of the Olympics at one point if Taiwan couldn't to compete.
• Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's compromise solution was this: Taiwan would be allowed to compete, but it had to compete as "Taiwan," not "Republic of China."

• Taiwan refused Trudeau's terms, and pulled out of the Games the day before they opened.
• Technically, none of this was Trudeau's decision to make - it was strictly a matter for the IOC. In former IOC president Lord Killanin's memoirs, he admitted that giving Trudeau so much say in the matter was "breaking our own rules." But Killanin's main concern was keeping the peace in an already rocky event, and trying to compromise seemed the best way to do so.

• Trudeau's actions weren't completely popular in Canada. Former prime minister John Diefenbaker said the Canadian stand on this issue was "giving Canada a black eye internationally."

• The American press was furious with Canada's actions. Many newspapers charged that this was an economic move, designed to protect Canada's exports to the PRC. The New York Times criticized Canada for "flagrant political abuse and misuse" of the Games, which were now reduced to "a mockery of the Olympic ideal." The Washington Star had similar opinions: "The cowardly, deceitful conduct of the government of Canada . is trying the world's patience just a little too much."

• Taiwan rejoined the Olympic Games as "Chinese Taipei" at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and has been competing alongside the Peoples' Republic of China since then.


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The Montreal Olympics: The Summer Games of '76 more