Ethiopia and Kenya to protest IAAF decision to stop long distance running

Kwao Saa

East African sporting officials are unhappy with the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to remove the 5,000m and 10,000m race from the Diamond League circuit.

Former Ethiopian long-distance athlete Haile Gebrselassie said the move would disproportionately affect Kenya and Ethiopia. He noted that these two countries have excelled in middle and long distance running for years.

The Ethiopia Athletics Federation (EAF) has described the IAAF decision as “very illegitimate.”

“We African should shout loud to IAAF to stop the silent killing of our long-distance running,” Sileshi Bisrat, who is with the EAF communications department, said. “The way forward showed that IAAF is going to remove these two events from the World Championships.”

The IAAF wants to reduce the long-distance competition to 3,000m. The world governing athletics body aims to make the Diamond League circuit shorter. The plan is to cut the races from 14 to 12 competitions. Also, the number of disciplines will be reduced from 32 to 24. There will be 12 disciplines each for men and women to compete.

The move by the IAAF has been described as unfair by Mr. Jackson Tuwei, the President of Athletics Kenya (AK). He said it was wrong because this are two competitions that African athletes have traditionally dominated.

Tuwei noted that the decision of the IAAF would be discussed at the African Athletics Confederation (AAC).

“I will raise the issue at an African Athletic Confederation (AAC) Congress in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) next month because this is totally unfair to our athletes,” Tuwei said.

Barnaba Korir, the chairman of AK Nairobi region, said the move by the IAAF would affect the historic and financial drive that long distance running enjoys.

“Historically, the longer distances were the pillar of track and field. Marathon was the pride of the Olympics, and 5,000 and 10,000m races were what made track and field interesting,” Korir, a former 10,000m runner, said. “All the legends of track and field – from Paavo Nurmi, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah, and Paula Radcliffee, Kip Keino, Henry Rono, and Paul Tergat, Said Aouita and Hicham El Guerrouj – were 5,000m and 10,000m athletes.”

“Besides, our athletes would lose significant income from the circuit if the two races are dropped. This would have a trickling effect and demoralize young athletes who admire their successful compatriots in their flashy cars and high-end property, thanks to prize money from winning long distances races, ” Korir added.