Obviously the practice of smearing one’s face with black paint has no racial context in this country — one that’s relatively blunt about race on all occasions, usually without offense intended – but for a team of runners sponsored by a global company like adidas, someone really should’ve tapped an organizer on the shoulder and nixed this photo-op, yeah?
Lee Mack of City Weekend, who was sent this picture by an expat at yesterday’s Beijing Marathon, makes this rather apt comparison:
We can only assume that the athletes were in blackface as some sort of twisted tribute to the fact that marathoning is mainly dominated by African runners these days? It reminds us of the controversy surrounding Spanish athletes who made Asian slanty-eyes before the 2008 Olympics and got hammered for it all over the world media. Regardless, it’s in extremely poor taste and is a slap in the face to face of the spirit of the marathon.
We’ve reached out to adidas for comment.
In other Beijing Marathon news, pictures of runners urinating on the streets suddenly seem less jarring by comparison.
Racist Adidas Event at Beijing Marathon (City Weekend)
UPDATE, 10/22, 10:53 am: Here’s a picture of other adidas-sponsored runners at the Chongqing Marathon in March, as taken by Patrick Burton:
UPDATE, 10/23, 10:19 am: an adidas representative emailed:
This was intended to be a marketing promotion for our new running footwear. Promoters were painted black in order to draw attention and create a contrast against the colourful adidas running shoes that were being promoted. Under no circumstances did adidas China intend to offend anyone by this activity and we are deeply sorry to those who felt offended.