The marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie will not compete in this event at the Beijing Olympics, because he fears the impact of Beijing air pollution on his health. The 34-year-old, widely regarded as the best distance runner of all time, suffers from asthma:
“The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42km in my current condition”.
Pollution, particularly air pollution, has been a high profile topic leading up to the Beijing Games with threats that athletes will boycott the Olympics altogether, and suggestions that they should train by running behind a bus.
However in this case it is not such an indictment of the Beijing environment; Gabrselassie opted out of the London marathon last year for the same reason, and is not missing out on all of the events in Beijing:
“But I’m not pulling out of the Olympic event in Beijing all together. I plan to participate in the 10,000m event.
The loss in sporting terms of Gabrselassie’s withdrawal is huge; he is not only the world record holder, but in January this year he ran the Dubai marathon in 2:04:53 – the second fastest time ever. Though he holds two Olympic golds (both in the 10,000m) there is no doubt that his participation in the 2008 Olympic marathon would have been an historic occasion.