Moments ago, a representative for this year’s now-gender-equal Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest wrote to let us know that there are some very serious behind-the-scenes issues happening with this year’s competitors. As you may have heard, three Chinese eaters are scheduled to compete this year, but we are now hearing that one such eater, Lui Ming Kui, has not yet secured a visa, putting his chances of competing in peril. According to George Shea, who is organizing the competition, "We at Major League Eating fear that it may reflect poorly on the U.S. if he is unable to compete, especially if the world views it as an attempt by us to prevent China from winning the belt."
But Shea informs us that he has sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton in an effort to hopefully help expedite the visa procurement. (We’ve got a PDF of the full letter here.) "We think that if the State Department can intervene and get the visa issue taken care of by Monday, the whole Chinese team, as it were, will be able to compete," Shea tells Grub Street, though he says he’s not sure what the exact holdup might be. He thinks it’s probably because "a visa can be a very tricky thing to get, and our sport may not be as fully embraced [by the international community] as soccer, baseball, or the Olympics, which is a huge frustration for me."
Well, we hope Hillary will get this all sorted out! In the meantime, we asked Shea what he thinks of former competitor Takeru Kobayashi’s plan to unofficially compete alongside a video feed of this year’s contest. His response? "If you’re not competing in person, that’s like running on your treadmill while you watch the Boston Marathon, then saying that you won."