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  • Countdown Beijing: Gebrselassie Says Air Too Foul for Olympic Marathon, India's Field Hockey Disgrace


    In a trip to Beijing in February, Halie Gebrselassie hinted that he may forego the marathon in favor of the 10,000m. (Getty Images)  
    Gebrselassie Out of Marathon?

    Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie seems unlikely to compete in that race at the Beijing Olympics.

    "The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometers in my current condition," he tells Reuters.

    He implies that a shorter run will be better for his health.

    "But I am not pulling out of the Olympic event in Beijing all together. I plan to participate in the 10,000 m event," he said.

    There’s no immediate response from BOCOG to the comments by Gebreselassie. According to one report Gebrselassie had said he would make a decision about the marathon at the end of May.

    Gebrselassie has two Olympic golds in the 10,000m.

    News from the 34-year-old Ethiopian comes a day after IOC president Jacques Rogge praised attempts to clean the air in Beijing.

    A Chinese official said Beijing's clean air plans will work during the Games.

    "Our experts predicted that the standard of air quality can be guaranteed and the commitment we made could be fulfilled after this plan is realized," said State Environmental Protection Administration deputy chief Zhang Lijun, during a press conference.

    Indian Field Hockey Fails Games Qualifications

    For the first time in more than 80 years, India will not send a men's field hockey team to the Olympics.

    At the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago, Chile, the U.K. shut down India 2-0. India's second place finish in the tournament is not good enough for an Olympic spot. India had qualified for all the Olympic Games from 1928 until now. During that time, they racked up eight golds, a silver and two bronzes.

    India head coach Joaquim Carvalho resigned the day after the Mar. 8 match.

    "When I took over 11 months ago, I had said I would resign if I cannot deliver results," he tells French media.
    India's women won a field hockey bronze in the 2006 Asian Games, though they have not yet won an Olympic medal. (Getty Images)  

    An Indian Hockey Confederation vice president also resigned in frustration.

    "Is anyone really concerned?" Narendra Batra is quoted in media reports.

    "The sports ministry has already demoted hockey as a priority sport although it remains our national sport," he continues.

    Batra refers to a May 2007 decision by the ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports to remove field hockey from a list of sports with priority government support.

    The minister attributed the cut "to the continuous poor performance of the Indian hockey team in all major tournaments in the recent past.”

    India's men failed to medal in the 2006 Asian Games hockey tournament, and have not won an Olympic medal since 1980.

    India's women still have one Olympic qualifying chance at a tournament in Russia at the end of April.

    Tibetan Protests Around the Globe

    Supporters of Tibetan freedom and autonomy marked the anniversary of a 1959 anti-China uprising on Mar. 10 with demonstrations in several cities, including ancient Olympia.

    Tibetan shotputter Tsultim Golpe carries the protest torch in Olympia. (Team Tibet)  
    Activists from the group Team Tibet attempted to light a protest torch at Olympia, but were prevented from entering by Greek police. They held a short ceremony outside before handing off the torch to a Tibetan runner. The police extinguished the torch and escorted the demonstrators off the scene, without making any arrests.

    Team Tibet – organized in conjunction with several free-Tibet NGOs – plans to bring the torch to 50 cities worldwide ahead of the Beijing Games.

    Some 20 Chinese police were also on hand in Olympia putting the participants under "intense scrutiny and harassment", according to the activists.

    "Olympia is a site where people come together, a site of peace," Olympia mayor Giorgos Aidonis is quoted in Greek reports.

    "It's not a place for political conflict or settlement of disputes, whatever the rights and wrongs in the case. They did not even meet with us to discuss their issue," the mayor said.

    In San Francisco, free Tibet activists held a rally during which they asked the city to reject the Beijing torch relay. The torch makes its only stop in the U.S. on April 9.

    In India, about 100 supporters of Tibetan independence began a march from the Dalai Lama's home-in-exile at Dharamshala to the Tibetan border. Indian police pledge to follow orders from Delhi to stop the marchers leaving the district, but with the group still some 40 km from the district border and vowing to walk to Tibet, it is not clear how the march will continue.

    Homepage photo by Getty Images.

    Written by
    Maggie Lee

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