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Gebrselassie Reconsiders Olympic Marathon Snub

‘Gebrselassie Reconsiders Olympic Marathon Snub’

Agence France-Presse in Beijing – Updated on Mar 13, 2008 – SCMP

Ethiopian world record holder Haile Gebrselassie may yet run in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, but only if organisers agree to move the race away from the city centre.

Earlier this week the 34-year-old, an asthma sufferer, expressed concern that the Chinese capital’s notorious pollution could damage his health and even bring his stellar career to a premature end. His agent Jos Hermans said that he was “99 percent sure” that the legendary athlete would not compete in the marathon for those reasons.

But BBC Sport reported on Thursday that a window of opportunity still existed.

“I do not want to rule anything out at this point,” Gebrselassie was quoted as saying. “This decision is not about me. It is about all athletes who will be competing. Our safety has to be protected.

“If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) makes the decision to switch venues, then I may compete depending on how my training is going. People must understand that this is a sporting decision and no different than what I make for every competition.”

The BBC said the distance runner, who set a new marathon world record in Berlin last year, has reportedly come under pressure from his home supporters in Ethiopia to take part in the race. Gebrselassie stressed that his announcement should not be misconstrued as a snub to China.

“I have nothing against China or their hosting of the Olympics. They are doing a great job,” he said.

The Ethiopian remains confident that he will take part in the Olympic 10,000m — an event he has won twice before, in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000.

“I have planned to compete in the 10,000m, but first I have to qualify for the Ethiopian team. That is not easy,” he said. “I would not have made the decision if I was not confident of my ability. In one way or another, I am going to compete in Beijing.”

The IOC has already voiced concern over distance events at the Olympics in August and has said that the marathons could be called off if the conditions posed a danger to athletes’ health. China insists that pollution will be reduced to acceptable levels during the August 8-24 Games.

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