Letter from Ethiopia #5

By Dandew Serbello - August 15, 2001


Dear readers, Congratulations and welcome back from Edmonton! 

I was carried away by nostalgia when I saw some of you clad in the national tricolor polarized in a corner and giving full support to the gallant runners of your country. The endurance that they displayed and the perseverance they sustained were excellent. They have been able ambassadors of their country Ethiopia. 

Here in Ethiopia the press has overdone its duties to elude fans into expecting a bit too much from the athletes so much so that whenever we loose the first place we get too much disappointed. A lot of my friends were feeling pathetic for Ethiopians in the Diaspora, as they had traveled long distances to Edmonton. It always baffles me why we Ethiopians feel so much togetherness and a sense of unison when we are in foreign land. This of course may not hold true these if we are to go by letters posted on the Internet. At any rate I hope that you all have felt satisfied with the performances of our athletes particularly the women. 

Haile was visibly suffering from the effects of the operation he underwent about eight months ago. The Kenyan athlete took advantage and beat him applying Haile’s own tactics that of holding breathe until the last lap and sprinting for the gold. Khatamii just did that and left behind Haile Gabreselassie to tend his wounds. Assefa Mezgebu, the veteran long distance runner, came second when he could have perused Khatamii to the end and perhaps grabbed the gold. It appears that he was waiting for Haile to change gear as usual while he kept watch on the Kenyans. But we are still indebted to Haile as has been giving all he had to keep Ethiopia’s flag hoisted for the last eight consecutive years in the ten thousand tracks. 

That evening somebody connived with our enemies to make a fool of ourselves. It was also a break and a cause to rid some of the tension off our head. This is what had happened. Around 6pm local time the streets of Addis were suddenly filled with motorcades running around with their rear lights flickering alarms and blowing their horns as loud as they could. Drivers slowed down only to ask what is going on and joined the band spontaneously. Rumor traveled almost at supersonic acceleration and in no time Addis Ababa was in frenzy. Later in the evening the state media rescued us all and spared effort and property. It was announced that an unidentified party had posted on the web site that the Kenyan athlete was disqualified because of a positive drug test thus raising the level of the Ethiopian squad to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. There may have been some germ of truth in that gross assumption but drug tests take time. We laughed our heads off that evening. We could not avert the general public feeling. 

People tend to forget things rather too fast. Haile has been considered invincible thanks to the gullible newsmen who are more nationalists than professionals. Haile rightly sensed the public feeling and hastened to reassure his fans by promising that he would soon come back victorious now that he has tested himself to be fit if only he did some more training. But that is not necessary at all. Haile is a human being and as such cannot go on winning ad infinitum. All said and done the green jerseys and the red shorts have popularized the country more than those assigned and paid to do the job. 

Yours Dandew Serbello 

from Sidist Killo



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