Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"When I stop running it will be politics" Haile Gebrselassie

ETHIOPIAN long-distance running legend and businessman Haile Gebrselassie wants to live forever: his head is buzzing with ideas, none of them modest.

Gebrselassie wants to run the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro 2016, at the age of 43, to take the Games to Africa and to be his country’s president.

His permanent smile briefly made the listener think he may be joking, but "Gebre" insisted he was serious. "For me is not enough. I am still doing not only athletics: I am in other sports as well," he told reporters on the fringe of London 2012.

The man regarded as one of the best long-distance runners in history, an Olympic champion in the 10.000m in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 and a four-time world champion, is as shy of words as he is of the way ahead.

"(I am involved in) other activities, business. In future I want to be involved in politics."

But that is still years ahead. First, he wants to run in Rio 2016 in the marathon, the discipline he devoted himself to when he gave up the track in 2004.

"Why not? Why not running? You see, when you are a runner you have to set goals. If you don’t have a goal, why are you running?" he said.

He declined to run in Beijing 2008 due to the air pollution in the Chinese capital, which might have aggravated the asthma he has suffered from since childhood.

In London 2012, his involvement ended at the opening ceremony, which he describes as a "wonderful experience" and one that allowed him to meet the likes of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"Gebre" divides his time between sports and managing his many business interests in Ethiopia, including hotels, a school of gymnastics, a cinema and a car dealership. His businesses, he said, were going well. Politics, business and sport are all intensive in time and effort, but Gebrselassie said he had everything under control.

"(It’s) not too many things. When I stop running it will be politics. I am doing just two things right now, business and running, and when I stop running it is business and politics."

He has not set deadlines for himself, however. Neither deadlines nor limits: when asked whether he could be a future candidate for the Ethiopian presidency, he flashed his trademark smile and said: "Why not?"

Limits are little known to this athlete, who also hopes to convince the International Olympic Committee that Africa is ready to host the Olympic Games. "That is what I discuss with my friends here. Why cannot Africa host an Olympics very soon, I say? Look what happened with SA in the World Cup. It was a fantastic World Cup," he said.

"Africans today, they know how to host a great championship."