Beijing marathon organisers have reversed a decision to refuse Japanese runners, Chinese state media said on Sunday, following earlier reports that they were barred.
Japan’s media had reported that the runners were previously banned from taking part in the November 25 event due to concerns for their safety amid a territorial spat, but that the decision was later reversed.
China’s Xinhua news agency, however, quoted an official as saying that the athletes had never been prevented from participating.
According to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun daily and Jiji Press, Chinese officials updated the marathon’s website to include “Japan” in the list for applicant’s nationality after the Japanese embassy in Beijing protested over the omission.
But Shen Chunde, deputy director of the Chinese Athletic Association, said the initial lack of a “Japan” option was due to an administrative oversight.
“As far as last year’s registration [was] concerned, it was rare that Japanese runners signed up online individually. Basically they applied through Japanese enterprises,” Shen told Xinhua.
“Since Japanese runners are enthusiastic and would like to apply as individuals, we will open this channel,” Shen added.
Japanese companies such as Canon had sponsored the annual event until last year but they did not renew their deal this year.
In Beijing, officials from the organising committee were not immediately available to comment on the report.
The two countries have been at odds over the sovereignty of the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
Tokyo’s nationalisation of islands that are at the centre of a territorial row with Beijing sparked violent mass anti-Japan demonstrations in Chinese cities in September. Japanese nationals, businesses and diplomatic missions were targeted.
Japanese and Chinese athletes have since pulled out of several sporting events in both countries due to safety concerns.
But Japanese figure skating stars took part without any incident in the Cup of China Grand Prix event in Shanghai last week as they were escorted by bodyguards and Chinese-speaking coordinators.