National

Interpreter for Oita marathon closes blog after calling African athletes 'chimpanzees' in post

by Masumi Koizumi

Staff Writer

A woman in her 50s who served as a volunteer interpreter at a marathon in Oita Prefecture has apologized for an online blog post in which she referred to African marathoners under her care as “chimpanzees.”

The woman, who volunteered during the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon on Feb. 3, decided to close the blog after an interview with local newspaper Oita Godo Shimbun on Wednesday, an official of the annual race’s secretariat said Friday. The blog was not her personal one and featured reports on the activities of a sports club to which she belongs, the official said.

Organizations involved with the race include Oita Prefecture, the cities of Oita and Beppu, Mainichi Newspapers Co. and Oita Broadcasting System Inc.

In an entry published Sunday, the woman said she had difficulty communicating with the African athletes. She then described the situation, writing, “it was as if I was communicating with primitive people,” adding, “the chimpanzees were shy at first but began opening their minds gradually.” The entry carried a picture showing her and the athletes, whose caption billed them as “cute chimpanzees.”

The official called the action “truly regrettable and inappropriate.”

The Japan Times could not reach the woman for comment. The official quoted her as saying she is sorry for the “discriminatory and rash comments.”

To prevent a similar incident, the official said, the secretariat will make staff members aware of their responsibilities when involved in the event through training. It will also instruct them not to upload information about their duties on social media sites without permission.

The woman also worked as a volunteer interpreter for last year’s race at the invitation of an event official.