An athlete’s ‘no pole’ plight shines light on Internet power
The World Youth Athletics Championships held in Cali, Colombia ended two weeks ago, yet Taiwan’s news media and netizens held onto it for most of last week. It is not because they were in celebration of a Taiwanese athlete taking away medals or breaking some world record, but rather expressing dismay and general outrage over the Sports Administration and Chinese Taipei Track and Field Association’s inability to ship a pole into 17-yearold pole vault contender Yeh Yao-wen’s hands, which led to the young athlete’s disqualification.
After days of debate and media pressure, Sports Administration Director-General Ho Jow-fei, Chinese Taipei Track and Field Association Secretary-General Wang Ching-cheng and Yeh’s coach held a press conference, bowed and apologized for the whole mishap. “This is all our fault,” Wang had said. Should a similar situation occur in the future, Ho promised to step down from his position.
Both the media and netizens may have finally laid this situation to rest since they’ve finally gotten an apology out of the government, however Yeh’s situation should not be quickly forgotten just like that. Nor should the public disregard all of what the administration, and other sports associations, have done in the past years for the track-and-field and other sports communities, despite it having never been laid out for the media as often as other popular sports, from baseball to basketball for example.
In spite of the Taiwanese government’s growing attention and contribution to the sports industry and athletes’ training, the “no pole” situation involving Yeh brings light again to what many Taiwanese athletes’ have silently experienced in the past years. How should both the Sports Administration and other related associations protect their athletes’ rights overseas? In Yeh’s case, how should they address and reduce the possibility of an athlete not receiving their equipment to the lowest extent possible? A possible answer lies in one thing we use everyday.
The Internet is abundant in resourceful netizens and lurking programmers with coding skills, but it is up to the government to learn how to tap into their power. Perhaps the Sports Administration can take a page out of a local government’s book.
Following the Formosa Water Park explosions in late June, more than 500 injured were scattered across different hospitals for treatment. Anxious family members or friends were unable to find their possibly injured children and friends. But the government sectors involved in the creation of a database for family members to search for their loved ones realized that they lacked the means and a partner who could create a platform on such short notice.
These officials unwittingly ended up recruiting the Internet by releasing certain information as “open data” to a nongovernment professional, who then in turn sought assistance on social media, namely Facebook. The Internet rose to the occasion. The first version of a program came out within an hour, along with other versions and platforms following afterwards. This “open-data” project story was published in a local magazine, Wealth Magazine. It was also the government’s first attempt at reaching out to social media for assistance.
What does this tell other bureaucratic sectors? Know thy limits. Recruit the Internet. Seek help from social media, and embrace “open data.” Sports associations, or any sort of organization with ties to the government or undergoing events abroad, could ally themselves with the Internet in setting up “open-data” databases as well, with the government, media and the public acting as watchdogs, to provide timely assistance for athletes abroad.
Platforms could also be set up in a way to support an athlete through crowdfunding. Athletes would be able to get financial sponsorship through fan donations — the public and fans would able donate money or equipment to show their support and at the same time, it could also quench certain associations or administrations’ need for money. Lack of funding is a common occurrence among sports-related associations and government sectors in Taiwan, possibly due to the stereotypes of it not contributing to the economy.
For a chance to see future Taiwanese athletes shine on an international stage, the Internet and public will be more than willing to help, instead of sitting behind their keyboards and engaging in online debates. All the bureaucratic sectors and associations need to do is open their doors, and ask. A young person’s life is just as important as a young athlete’s blossoming future.