China cool on Gebrselassie’s offer
BEIJING: China’s officials poured cold water yesterday on Ethiopian world record holder Haile Gebrselassie’s offer to run in the Beijing Olympic marathon if the venue was switched.
“The course for the marathon has been fixed and there are no plans to change it,” said Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee.
Earlier this week Gebrselassie, an asthma sufferer, told reporters he would skip the marathon in Beijing for fear the city’s notorious pollution could damage his health and even bring his glorious career to a premature end.
But he has since appeared to relent, and was quoted saying earlier yesterday that he would consider competing if the venue for the marathon was switched to a less polluted location.
But China’s officials said they expected the marathon to go ahead as planned.
“Beijing is a beautiful city, the marathon route is well planned, and the spectators are hospitable,” said Sun. “As for the pollution, we are confident that we can deliver good air quality for the Games.”
The marathon is scheduled to start in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and finish in the main Olympic stadium north of the city centre prior to the closing ceremony on Aug 24.
On a visit to Beijing last month Gebrselassie said he had driven along the course and described it as “excellent.”
But he has expressed fears for his health in a marathon because of the pollution problem and his agent Jos Hermans said that he was “99 per cent sure” that the legendary athlete would not compete in the marathon.
Yet the 34-year-old was yesterday quoted by the BBC saying: “I do not want to rule anything out at this point.
“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.” — AFP