Shanghai half marathon ditches Adidas shirts ahead of Sunday's race

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FILE PHOTO: Participants run on the Bund near Huangpu River as they compete in the Shanghai International Marathon

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Shanghai Half Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, has scrapped plans to provide runners with Adidas-branded T-shirts, according to messages sent to participants, as the German firm remains under pressure in China over comments it made on cotton from the country's western Xinjiang region.

In a text message seen by Reuters, participants were told by the organiser there would be no shirts in the racing kits that runners should pick up on Friday or Saturday. It did not give a reason.

"We are deeply sorry about this change," the message said, adding that participants would receive a 60 yuan ($9.19) refund on their entrance fee, or could choose to withdraw from the race and get a 160 yuan refund.

The organiser could not be reached for comment, and Adidas declined to comment.

In a March 24 post on its official account on social media platform WeChat, the organiser said there would be Adidas running shirts and towels provided to contestants and called the German sportswear firm a "cooperation partner".

That was the same day that Chinese internet users began calling for boycotts of western brands including Adidas, Nike and H&M over past statements they saying they do not use cotton sourced from Xinjiang.

The following day, at least 10 Chinese celebrities including Hong Kong pop superstar Eason Chan announced that they were ending their working relationship with Adidas.

Some researchers and foreign lawmakers say the Xinjiang authorities use coercive labour programmes to meet seasonal cotton picking needs, which China strongly denies.

Up to 6,000 runners were expected to join Sunday's race, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

($1 = 6.5262 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Sophie Yu and Tony Munroe in Beijing. Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Berlin; editing by David Evans)