Mixed Reactions to Japanese Comedian Running for Cambodia in London Marathon: “He’s Disrespecting Other Athletes” vs. “He’s a Bridge Between Nations”

Hiroshi Neko Cambodian Marathoner
Mr. Hiroshi Neko poses happily after accepting a place in the Olympic marathon as a representative of Cambodia. His ribbon wishes him “congratulations.” March 26, Sumida-ku, Tokyo.

Mixed Reactions to Japanese Comedian Running for Cambodia in London Marathon: “He’s Disrespecting Other Athletes” vs. “He’s a Bridge Between Nations”
Yomiuri Shimbun: 猫さん五輪に賛否…「選手に失礼」「懸け橋に」
March 31, 2012

Mr. Hiroshi Neko (the alias of Kuniaki Takizaki), a 34-year old comedian who took Cambodian citizenship to complete for a spot in the marathon at the London Olympics, has been chosen as a member of the Cambodian team.

This has ignited controversy, with some saying he has shown great disrespect to Cambodian athletes in going as far as changing his citizenship to make the team and others saying he is a bridge between nations. Can he handle the burden of a nation’s hopes and dreams during the race itself?

“My goal is to break the world record in London.” Speaking at a press conference in Sumida-ku, Tokyo on March 26 in which he accepted a place on the Cambodian national team, Mr. Neko was so nervous that his hands shook. He usually dons a red T-shirt reading “Cat Demon” (Neko Oni) , but that day he wore a suit and tie.

He acknowledged criticism of his change of nationality, saying “I know some people have strict views about this. I’ve decided to go through with it, though, and I’m going to pursue victory all the way to the end.”

Eye-catching online criticism of Mr. Neko includes “for a comedian to play a joke on everyone by running in the Olympics is a dishonor to all the athletes who are honestly competing in the event” and “Isn’t he just trying to get attention?”

Former Olympic silver medalist Yūko Arimori (45), who plans charity marathons in Cambodia to deepen exchange with the country, tearfully said to the Yomiuri Shimbun that “it pains me to think of the young man whose spot on the team was taken by a Japanese person.” Indeed, it was Ms. Arimori who invited Neko’s primary competitor for that spot, Hem Bunting (26), to Japanese invitationals. “Cambodian runners have to build their strength inside a poor training environment. I’d prefer that someone who’s actually from there run for them.”

Japan Track and Field Association Director (and former marathoner) Toshihiko Seko (55), however, is looking forward to Mr. Neko’s performance: “My compliments go to him for winning his spot on the basis of his abilities. I would like to see him become a bridge between these two nations.”

Original:
猫さん五輪に賛否…「選手に失礼」「懸け橋に」
カンボジア代表として五輪出場が決定し、喜びのポーズを取る猫ひろしさん(26日、東京・墨田区で)

 カンボジア国籍を取得してロンドン五輪を目指していたお笑い芸人の猫ひろし(本名・滝崎邦明)さん(34)が男子マラソンの同国代表に選ばれた。

 これに対し、「国籍を変えてまで出場するのはカンボジアの選手に失礼」「両国の懸け橋になって」など様々な意見が出ている。国の誇りを背負う五輪選手の重責を果たせるのか――。

 「世界記録を出すつもりでロンドンを走りたい」。3月26日、代表決定を受けて東京・墨田区で記者会見した猫さんは、緊張で手を震わせながら決意を語った。普段は「猫魂」の文字が入った赤いTシャツ姿が多いが、この日はスーツにネクタイ。国籍変更での出場に批判があることについて「厳しい意見があることはわかっている。やると決めたので最後までやり遂げたい」と語った。

 ネット上では、「芸能人がふざけて五輪に出るのは真剣に競技に打ち込んでいる選手に失礼」「目立ちたいだけではないのか」といった批判が目立つ。

 カンボジアを支援するチャリティーマラソンを企画するなど交流を深めてきた元五輪銀メダリストの有森裕子さん(45)も読売新聞の取材に「日本人に代表を譲る若い選手の心中を思うと悔しい」と涙声で訴えた。猫さんと五輪代表枠を争ったヘム・ブンティン選手(26)を日本の大会に招待したこともある有森さん。「貧弱な練習環境の中で選手たちは力をつけてきている。現地の選手に出てほしい」

 これに対し、日本陸上競技連盟理事の瀬古利彦さん(55)は、「実力で勝ち取った代表で評価したい。両国の懸け橋になってほしい」と期待する。
(2012年3月31日14時33分 読売新聞)

Explore posts in the same categories: Japan, Politics, Sports, Translations

Tags:

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: