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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the performativity of sport nationalism: Taiwanese identity and online mobilization

ABSTRACT This essay examines how Taiwanese national identity was performed on social media during the postponed Tokyo Olympics 2020. Taiwan achieved its best-ever medal tally, leading to the emergence of a new form of sport nationalism. Athletes' off-field behaviors, including diverse gender expressions, distinguished them not only from their Chinese counterparts but also from previous generations of Taiwanese athletes. Badminton, weightlifting, and table tennis athletes became the “proxy warriors” of Taiwan, showcasing the democratic and diverse nature of Taiwanese society. The Tokyo Olympics, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions, became a battleground for ideologies, with the complex relationships among Taiwan, China, and Japan setting the backdrop for narratives. To depart from traditional research on official national discourses, this essay employs critical discourse analysis (CDA) by examining Facebook content and comments on news reports related to Taiwanese Olympians. This essays argues that Taiwan's cyber civil society has developed a flexible strategy to counter China's aggression on the internet. Taiwanese online mobilization demonstrated self-control, creativity, and adaptability, establishing a unique Taiwanese identity during the Tokyo Olympics in the midst of the pandemic.