Beijing Marathon shamed into reversing ban on Japanese athletes

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    About 30,000 Japanese athletes wanted to participate in this year’s Beijing Marathon, but they ran into some trouble when they tried to use the marathon’s online registration system. In the section of the registration form that asked participants to select their nationality, Japan was not an option. The Japanese press discovered that organizers had intentionally removed Japan from the list of 238 countries. Violent rioting has died down since the latest flare-up over the Senkaku Islands, but it appears that an atmosphere of anti-Japanese hate remains in China.

    “If they choose other nationalities including China, Japanese can take part,” the influential newspaper Asahi Shimbun’s online edition quoted a source at the organising committee of the November 25 marathon as saying.

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

    The story was picked up in the international press. The organizing committee’s decision became yet another shining example of petty Chinese nationalism. After facing public criticism and an official complaint from the Japanese embassy, the organizers reversed their decision:

    A Japanese television report about the policy change notes that some Chinese netizens praised the ban on Japanese athletes, but many more Chinese though that the ban was unfair and unnecessary.

    The Chinese state media has jumped in make excuses:

    “Beijing Marathon has never refused Japanese marathon fans to participate. Beijing Marathon has been open to marathon fans from every country and region all over the world since its inauguration,” said the association’s deputy director Shen Chunde in a report published on the official website.

    Some reports had said that the 2012 competition did not admit Japanese runners as there was no option of Japan as to nationality in the application page.

    “As far as last year’s registration concerned, it was rare that Japanese runners signed up online individually. Basically they applied through Japanese enterprises,” Shen explained.

    “So this year, we remained to accept group registration because it is convenient for the Japanese participants to look after each other and also it is easy to handle in terms of picking up competition numbers and outfits. Therefore, there was no registration option for individual Japanese marathon fans,” Shen said.

    “Since Japanese runners are enthusiastic and would like to apply as individuals, we will open this channel,” Shen said.

    It is a lame excuse that doesn’t match what Japanese reporters were initially told by the marathon organizers. They might have been better off if they’d claimed that a computer virus mysteriously deleted only Japan from their website code…

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