‘Championship handovers’ during the Beijing Half Marathon: A disgrace to the sport


The once esteemed Beijing Half Marathon has become a “mockery”. During the race, three African contenders, namely Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu, did something most unusual. They appeared to pivot and offer encouragement to their fellow Chinese athlete, He Jie, with an air of reluctance to fully embrace their own victory.

He Jie clinched the title by a mere one-second lead, leaving the African athletes to share the second spot.

The incident announced to be under investigation by the organizing committee on Monday night, has not only tarnished the essence of sportsmanship but also cast a shadow on Xtep, the sponsor for the four athletes. Adding another layer of intrigue to the entire affair is the disqualification of competitive runner Jia E’renjia from the event due to contractual conflicts with Xtep, further deepening the complexity of the situation.

Sports events are built on the pillars of openness and fairness. Any deviation not only undermines the essence of sports but also disrespects the spectators. When sponsors and organizers prioritize business interests over fair competition, they betray the trust of both the athletes and spectators. China deserves genuine sporting events devoid of predetermined outcomes.

In recent years, a marathon fever has swept across China, signalling a surge in public enthusiasm for the sport. However, the implications of “handing over championships”, if confirmed, erode the integrity of sports and dampen fan fervour, casting a shadow over the once-thriving enthusiasm.

True sportsmanship lies in the pursuit of excellence, fair play and respect for opponents. While the actions of the African athletes toward He Jie may seem “altruistic”, they ultimately undermine the competitive spirit of the event. Sports competitions should be decided on the track, not through orchestrated acts of goodwill.

All athletes, sports organizations and governing bodies should keep in mind the Chinese football scandal storm, during which fraudulent matches nearly devastated the entire football system. Athletes and spectators alike deserve events where outcomes are determined solely by merit and skill.

As marathon events gain popularity in China and globally, it is crucial to safeguard the sport’s integrity. Ensuring accountability from sponsors, organizers and athletes, and upholding the values of fairness, respect, and integrity are fundamental principles that must never be compromised.

Liu Jianna

China Daily

Asia News Network