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Trieste half-marathon accused of racism in excluding Africans

The Guardian logo The Guardian 27/04/2019 Angela Giuffrida
The half-marathon is in its 24th year. © Getty Images/Westend61 The half-marathon is in its 24th year.

The organisers of a half-marathon in the northern Italian city of Trieste have been accused of racism over their decision to exclude African athletes from the race.

Fabio Carini, the president of Apd Miramar, the company organising the 5 May event, said the decision to only open the race to European participants was to call out the exploitation of African runners.

“This year we decided to only take European athletes to make a point that measures must be taken to regulate what is a trade in very high-worth African athletes, who are simply exploited,” he told La Repubblica newspaper. “This is something we can no longer accept.”

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13:  Luis Ostos of Peru, Paul Kipngetich Tanui of Kenya and Olivier Irabaruta of Burundi  compete during the Men's 10,000m on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images) © Getty RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Luis Ostos of Peru, Paul Kipngetich Tanui of Kenya and Olivier Irabaruta of Burundi compete during the Men's 10,000m on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Carini added that African athletes were paid much less than they were worth.

But the move provoked outrage from leftwing politicians, with Isabella De Monte, an MEP with the centre-left Democratic party, suggesting that the organisers were “cleansing” sport.

“The exploitation of athletes is being used as a fig leaf – regarding such questions, there are places and appropriate bodies to turn to,” she said. “This is truly absurd: professionals are being prevented from taking part in a competition because they come from Africa. We’ve been saying it for months … the situation is getting really out of hand and we’re in the danger of returning to the dark times.”

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 08:The secretary of the 'Sinistra Italiana' party Nicola Fratoianni during the presentation of the symbol for the European elections of the list called 'The Left', which in Europe refers to the Party of the European Left and the parliamentary group 'European United Left / Nordic Green Left' (Gue / Ngl),on April 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,) © Getty ROME, ITALY - APRIL 08:The secretary of the 'Sinistra Italiana' party Nicola Fratoianni during the presentation of the symbol for the European elections of the list called 'The Left', which in Europe refers to the Party of the European Left and the parliamentary group 'European United Left / Nordic Green Left' (Gue / Ngl),on April 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)

De Monte said the only way to react was through outrage. “Sport is about sharing, unifying, loyalty and respect – that’s what we teach our children,” she said.

Nicola Fratoianni, the secretary of the Italian Left party, called for the matter to be raised in parliament. “This is not Mississippi in the 1950s but Trieste in 2019,” he said.

The half-marathon is in its 24th year and had previously been open to all nationalities. Olivier Irabaruta and Elvanie Nimbona, athletes from Burundi, were among the winners last year.

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Carini said he would not back down and would invite organisers of other marathons to follow suit.

The controversy follows a series of racist incidents in Italian football, with two AC Milan players subjected to racist chants by Lazio fans during a match on Wednesday night. Shortly before the game Lazio supporters made a tribute to the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on a street in Milan.

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