Beijing Marathon organisers investigate claim of sexual harassment of volunteer cheerleader

Runner reportedly says he accidentally missed a high five and touched a woman on the belly in last stages of race

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 2:10pm

The organisers of Beijing’s annual marathon are investigating claims that a runner in Sunday’s race sexually harassed a volunteer cheering along the route, according to Chinese news reports.

In a letter published by online site NetEase News, the runner apologised for trying to high five the volunteer only to “unintentionally touch her on the belly”.

“I apologise to her even though I didn’t mean to touch her on the belly area,” the runner wrote. “I was trying to give her a high five to boost my spirits as I was near the end and very tired.”

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Footage of the incident was posted online, prompting the marathon’s organising committee to open an investigation into the case, a news site on the internet platform Sohu reported on Monday.

Neither report quoted the volunteer directly, instead citing comments purportedly by the woman on friends’ microblogs saying she was very upset by the incident.

The footage ignited a rash of online criticism of the runner, with commenters suggesting sports authorities ban him from future marathons.

In the letter, the runner said he was aware of and distressed by the widespread discussion of the incident. “I stayed up all night on the train back home and nearly broke down. I did not mean to touch her,” he said.

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The Sohu report quoted the Beijing Sports Competitions Administration Centre as saying the incident was first case of alleged sexual harassment associated with the race.

“We will keep investigating and announce the results soon,” the centre said.

Around 30,000 runners from 43 countries completed the marathon on Sunday, according to the organising committee.