Yuki Yamazaki crossed the finish line inside Nagai Stadium during the 50-kilometer walk and collapsed in exhaustion.
Turns out, the Japanese athlete was directed into the stadium one lap too soon. He still had another lap to complete.
Due to the mistake, Yamazaki was credited with a "did not finish" Saturday at the world track and field championships. Yamazaki, much to the delight of the Japanese crowd, crossed the finish line fifth before the mistake was noticed. The winner of the event was Nathan Deakes of Australia.
"I feel very responsible for this," said Koji Sakurai, the competition chairman for the local organizing committee.
Sakurai said the number of laps that Yamazaki had completed was miscommunicated to the staff members in charge of directing runners into the stadium.
"Therefore, this particular athlete went into the stadium with one (more lap) to go," Sakurai said. "This error was a fatal mistake."
IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss, who was sitting next to Sakurai at a press conference, tried to cheer him up.
"This has happened from time to time," Weiss said. "It's regrettable."
Weiss smiled and added, "But please don't make hara-kiri tonight," a reference to a Japanese ritual suicide.
Sakurai answered, "I do my best."
Still, Sakurai said the error was unfortunate.
Yamazaki started quick and, although he faded late in the race, was still slated for a top-10 finish had he not been directed into the stadium too soon.
All three race walks at the world championships had something go wrong.
In the men's 20-kilometer run, Javier Francisco Fernandez of Spain surged past Tunisia's Hatem Ghoula in the last 5 meters to finish second, but was disqualified by the chief judge at the finish.
Fernandez appealed and the decision was overturned several hours after the race, with a technical committee reviewing video and deciding unanimously that the Spaniard's technique over the last meters did not warrant disqualification. Fernandez was reinstated to silver.
In the women's 20-kilometer walk, Russia's Olga Kaniskina won the gold, even after taking a wrong turn at the start.
"I feel very sorry," Sakurai said.
MORE FANS WANTED: Berlin organizers are hoping to draw non-traditional fans to the next world championships, a boost to attendance that has been lacking in Osaka.
Berlin's Olympic stadium will be configured to seat about 60,000 for the 2009 championships. That's about 10,000 more than Osaka's Nagai Stadium, which has been half-full through seven days of the nine-day championships.
"Our goal for the next two years is to bring the feeling in the city and to the nation and to the whole world that athletics and the world championships are not only an event for the hard-core fans of athletics," Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said.
"That it is also very good for families for other people who are in the city. We want to bring them to the stadium and interest them in athletics."
Attendance has been a problem in Osaka.
Through seven of nine days, an average of about 25,000 fans have shown up for the evening sessions and about 17,000 for morning sessions. Attendance has been hurt by soaring temperatures that have often brushed 38C (100F), and because Japan has not won a medal. Its best chance comes Sunday in the women's marathon.
"Bringing 60,000 people a day to the world championships, that is not so easy," Wowereit said. "But I'm sure that we are able to do it.
VOTES ARE IN: Stefan Holm of Sweden received the most votes in an election to serve on an athlete's commission of track and field's world governing body.
Holm was elected to the commission for a four-year term. Joining Holm were Japan's Koji Murofushi, Jamaica's Davian Clarke, England's Paula Radcliffe, Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva and Kenya's Benjamin Limo.
Athletes voted to the commission for a two-year term included Denmark's Christina Scherwin, Spain's Manuel Martinez, New Zealand's Beatrice Faumuina, Adam Nelson of the United States, Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands and France's Romain Mesnil.
There were 1,908 athletes eligible to vote with 1,089 casting valid ballots.
CHINA CHAMPIONS: Liu Xiang was the seventh Chinese to win gold at the world championships. Liu won the 110-meter hurdles on Friday. The last previous winner was Liu Hongyu in the 1999 championships in Seville. She won the women's 20-meter walk.
China's first winner was Huang Zhihong in 1991 in the women's shot put. She won again in 1993 in Stuttgart.