Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 14:00 UK

China snubs World Games opening

Motorbike man in front of Taiwan World Games banner, 15 July 2009
Taiwan is aiming for international attention with the World Games

China has boycotted the opening ceremony of the World Games in Taiwan, an official with the games has said.

A spokesman for the games, Hermann Kewitz, said China had not given an explanation but said that Chinese athletes would compete in the events.

Beijing's decision came after organisers allowed Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou to open the games.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and does not recognise Mr Ma as its president.

Mr Kewitz said the International World Games Association had made a last-minute decision to allow Mr Ma to open the games in recognition of the effort Taiwan had made as host nation - including spending millions of dollars on building and renovating venues.

Olympics alternative

Taiwan has been self-governing since the end of China's civil war in 1949, when the Communist party took power on the mainland.

China insists that nations cannot have official relations with both China and Taiwan, with the result that Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with only about two dozen countries - most of them in the Pacific, South America and Africa.

China bars Taiwan from hosting or attending international events as a sovereign nation. Taiwan usually participates in such events under the name Chinese Taipei instead of its official name, Republic of China.

Relations with China have improved significantly in the past year, since Mr Ma took office. This is the first sign of the lingering political tensions, despite a number of unprecedented trade and transportation deals, says the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

The World Games bills itself as an alternative to the Olympics.

It features the 31 sports that did not make it into the Olympics - such as water skiing, canoe polo and tug-of-war. More than 3,000 athletes from 91 countries are taking part in the events in Taiwan's second-largest city, Kaohsiung.

Despite cheap ticket prices, sales have been poor, with organisers blaming the economic downturn.

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