translated by Brett Larner and Mika Tokairin
China announced on July 25th that it will be dramatically increasing the number of police on the street during the Olympic women`s marathon in order to protect Japanese athletes and fans, tripling the number of street patrols and course guards in areas which are expected to have large numbers of Japanese supporters. The government has taken this unusually strict action to prevent trouble during the women`s marathon in light of the fact that both Japan and China are fielding favorites for the gold medal. In the past Beijing has experienced large public demonstrations against Japan, and it is expected that the battle in the women`s marathon will lead to an even more heated clash between supporters off the course.
The Japanese team features exceptionally strong members including Mizuki Noguchi, 30, who is going for her second straight gold medal. Large numbers of Japanese supporters are expected in Beijing because of the likelihood of a Japanese runner scoring a medal. China`s team features 2007 Osaka World Championships silver medalist Zhou Chunxiu, 29, also a major contender for an Olympic medal.
A serious clash between the two runners` supporters along the course is expected to occur. According to a Chinese government source, the Chinese police expect about 1000 Japanese exchange students and residents of China to gather at a major subway station located near the 35 km point of the Olympic marathon course. Large numbers of police including undercover agents will be positioned in this area.
In 2004, shortly after former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Tokyo`s Yasukuni shrine*, thousands of Chinese fans in Beijing became unruly after Japan`s victory at a soccer game between the two countries` national teams and attacked vehicles belonging to the Japanese embassy. In 2005, more than 10,000 people took part in an anti-Japan demonstration, throwing stones at the Japanese embassy and destroying many Japanese-owned businesses in the city.
However, bilateral relations improved after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China in October, 2006. In May this year, Chinese President Hu Jintao made the first offical visit to Japan by a Chinese leader in over 10 years, illustrating the improved relationship between the two nations. Nevertheless, as a member of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out, "When national pride has been damaged it cannot heal so quickly."
In terms of the women`s marathon, the Chinese government is concerned that because of the nature of the marathon it is difficult to control access to the course. It is not a closed venue in which only those who purchased tickets can get close to athletes, but rather one in which anyone may watch and anything could happen. In the Athens Olympics men`s marathon a man broke onto the course and interrupted the race by attacking one of the runners, leading Japanese Rikuren officials to hope that China will strictly enforce course security. Rikuren marathon division director Tadasu Kawano said, "It`s too late when something has already happened, so I want China to guard our runners strictly."
Japanese fans going to cheer the women`s marathon have been advised to carry both the Japanese and Chinese flags to show sensitivity to Chinese feeling. Mineki Komma, a Japanese exchange student who has been living in Beijing for 3 years, commented, "I think it`s scary because when a lot of Japanese people gather here you don`t know what`s going to happen."
*Translator`s note: Former Prime Minister Koizumi`s visits to honor Japan`s war dead at Yasukuni Shrine were a contentious issue for China and South Korea as by visiting he payed his respects to the Class A war criminals enshrined therein who led Japan`s occupation of China and Korea before and during World War II.