Japanese Barred From Beijing Marathon Unless They Run Under Non-Japanese Nationality [UPDATE]

Lingering effects from September’s Diaoyu Islands row have caused organizers of the November 25 Beijing Marathon to take the unprecedented step of barring Japanese competitors. Not explicitly, of course — rather, “Japanese” isn’t listed in the nationality section of the online registration page. If you’re from Japan, you can run, technically, just not as a representative of your home country.

“If they choose other nationalities including China, Japanese can take part,” AFP quotes Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoting a source from the marathon’s organizing committee as saying.

The committee made the decision by taking into consideration the safety of athletes, the daily said in a report from Beijing.

If the decision was indeed made for safety reasons, we should almost applaud it. After all, why risk losing face over this race? Spectators might gather along the path, and might spew invective, and that might cause things to get out of hand.

Then again, I haven’t encountered anything — in the news or on the streets — that would suggest that there’s still a problem. I understand that nationalistic feelings will always simmer under the surface, and sovereignty disputes could surface anytime the Japanese or Chinese government decide it, but the irrational anger that swept across the country in September has largely dissipated, the crazies stuffed back into their woodwork.

So it’s all pretty silly, isn’t it? Could there be another reason?

Money, perhaps? AFP notes:

Japanese companies such as Canon had sponsored the annual event until last year but they are not sponsoring it this year.

Who knows. But if, for some unholy reason, people are still stirred up about those damn Diaoyu rocks at the end of this month, we’ll know the problem runs a bit deeper than an annual race.

UPDATE, 6:39 pm: Organizers have reversed their decision, and Japanese runners are now officially welcome! AFP again:

But officials have now updated their website to include “Japan” in the list of applicants’ nationalities, after the Japanese Embassy in Beijing lodged a protest, the leading Yomiuri Shimbun daily and Jiji Press said.

But Japan Running News tells us, with a screenshot, that Japan is listed out of alphabetical order, after Jordan. Face-palm. Again.

In interviews with Chinese media the event’s assistant race director said, “The Beijing Marathon has consistently welcomed entrants of all nationalities.  We have not blocked Japanese citizens from entering.”

Post-update note (a.m., Nov. 11): The online race entry system now includes Japan on the list of nationalities, but out of alphabetical order after Jordan.  See screen shot below.  Compared with the screen shots taken on Nov. 10 it is clear that the Beijing Marathon assistant race director’s comments do not reflect reality.

Japan Running News also says that “it seems as though this should be sufficient grounds for the Beijing Marathon’s loss of its IAAF Gold Label.”

(H/T Alicia; image via SCMP)

    10 Responses to “Japanese Barred From Beijing Marathon Unless They Run Under Non-Japanese Nationality [UPDATE]”

    1. jdmartinsen

      The Chinese Athletic Association said that the Beijing Marathon has always been open to runners from across the world, including Japan, and offered as a totally-believable explanation for the absence of “Japanese” as a nationality on the registration page the claim that Japanese runners typically participate in groups rather than applying individually, and therefore had not been included on the official website. (source)

    2. Kevin McGeary

      I don’t think there’s a facepalm image anywhere on the entire internet that would be a proportionate response to this.

    3. King Baeksu

      “But officials have now updated their website to include “Japan” in the list of applicants’ nationalities, after the Japanese Embassy in Beijing lodged a protest, the leading Yomiuri Shimbun daily and Jiji Press said.”

      Lol, the damage has already been done, regardless.

      Han ethnocentrism and adroit international P.R. don’t seem to be a very good mix. Didn’t anyone at the Beijing Marathon see this coming?

    4. Kevin P

      There’s definitely some weirdness going on – Ireland appears between Iran and Iraq, for example. But it’s not based on domain names, because otherwise Ireland (.ie) would appear before Iran (.ir). Nor is it 3-letter ISO country codes (Ireland is IRL, which would be before IRN), or Chinese alphabetical order (Iraq and Iran both start with 伊, while Ireland starts with 爱)

    5. SRG

      The Beijing Marathon is a cheap joke, it exists only as a another phoney tick on Beijing’s “the events a world city should have” check-list.

      The original start date of October 14 was cancelled without notice, at the behest of some paranoid apparatchik, just days before the race, with runners given only a hazy promise that it would be rescheduled at a yet to be confirmed later date.

      Now compare this for a moment with the New York Marathon, an event that’s recent cancellation due to Hurricane Sandy caused genuine consternation.

      Why? Because it’s a meaningful part of the city’s calendar.

      It’s obvious to all that BJ city chiefs couldn’t give a flying fuck about the marathon, nor the thousands of runners who spend months preparing for it, for them it’s just another perfunctory garland to hang from their office wall.

      I sincerely hope the IAAF does the right thing, and removes its endorsement of next years race. Xenophobic racist bullshit – like the episode described above – ought to have no place in sport – especially not a sport as egalitarian as long distance running.


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