Under heavy fire, China allows Japanese to enter Beijing marathon

November 12, 2012

By ATSUSHI OKUDERA/ Correspondent

BEIJING--Organizers of the Beijing International Marathon lifted the ban on Japanese entrants after their original decision was lambasted on the Internet as a “national shame.”

The tab allowing Japanese runners to register in the Nov. 25 marathon reappeared on the event’s official website on the night of Nov. 10.

Until then, entrants could choose their nationalities from 240 countries and regions--including Antarctica--but the Japanese had no such choice.

After online registration procedures began on Nov. 8 without the tab for Japanese runners, an official of the organizing committee told The Asahi Shimbun that Japanese could not enter this year because of safety concerns amid the strained relations between the two countries.

The committee’s decision to shut out Japanese runners was widely reported by domestic and foreign media on Nov. 9, followed by a flood of opinions on the Internet in China.

While some hailed Chinese officials for keeping out the Japanese runners, most of the postings were critical.

One said the ban was “against sportsmanship,” while another said it illustrates “the small mind of the Chinese government.”

Bilateral relations started to unravel after the Japanese government in September bought three of Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, triggering fierce anti-Japan demonstrations in many Chinese cities.

The islets, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

Canon Inc. and other Japanese companies withdrew their sponsorship of the Beijing marathon this year when tensions showed no signs of abating.

The Chinese Athletics Association, which sponsors the marathon, said the tab for Japan was unavailable because it wanted Japanese runners to register as a group to make it easier for them to receive their numbers.

The association said many Japanese runners in the past had entered the race under their company names, which created confusion.

Officials with the association said international runners are always welcome to the Beijing marathon and that they want the entrants to experience an “open” China.

The official website still does not offer a Japanese-language version, which was available last year.

More than 29,000 people have already applied for the 30,000 available slots this year.

The first Beijing marathon was held in 1981. Twin brothers Shigeru So and Takeshi So from Japan placed first and second, respectively, in the 1985 event.

By ATSUSHI OKUDERA/ Correspondent
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More than 20,000 runners prepare for the start of the Beijing International Marathon at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 16, 2005. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

More than 20,000 runners prepare for the start of the Beijing International Marathon at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 16, 2005. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • More than 20,000 runners prepare for the start of the Beijing International Marathon at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 16, 2005. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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