While international attention might have focused on the political aspects of the matchup between China and Taiwan, coming after a sometimes frightening year of tension between Beijing and Taipei culminating in Chinese missile tests off Taiwan in March, the atmosphere on Friday was decidedly business-like.
The Chinese, who took second place in the 1994 world championships, shut Taiwan out, 1-0, almost assuring an eventual matchup against the United States in the finals.
"We aren't bringing up politics at all. This has nothing to do with politics," said Chang Feng-shu, a former mayor of Taipei and a high Taiwanese official who heads the island's Olympic committee. He threw out the first ball of the game. "We abide strictly by the International Olympic Committee's regulations," he said.
Those regulations left Taiwan coming into Friday's match with at least one strike against it. China, as a condition of its reentry into the Olympic movement, insisted that Taiwan's teams go under the name "Chinese-Taipei" to avoid challenging Beijing's claim to be the sole legitimate government of all China--a claim that has been a pillar of Chinese Communist party policy since it drove the Nationalist Chinese government into exile on Taiwan in 1949.
But to the baseball-capped fans, laps overburdened with a cornucopia of chili-dogs, foil-wrapped hamburgers and brimming boxes of popcorn, none of that seemed to matter.
They watched a piece of one of Asia's most intractable Cold War rivalries play itself out, American-style.
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