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Somali to shed tear for slain predecessor

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Somalia's Olympic chief will find it impossible to choke back the tears at next week's opening ceremony for the London 2012 Games.

""We will be remembering our fallen comrades," said Duran Farah, whose predecessor Aden Yabarow Wiish was killed along with at least five other people in April when a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a ceremony at Mogadishu's national theatre.

""We want to show the world that we can come out of this coma," Farah told Reuters at the athletes' village in London where Somalia's two athletes, running for pride rather than medals, will be staying.

When training for the 1,500 metres, Mohamed Hassan Mohamed had in the past to dodge gunfire and mortar shells in one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Now he and 400 metres competitor Zamzam Mohamud Farah will be training in the buildup to London 2012 with the Qatari team in Belfast, itself no stranger to civil strife in the past.

No Somali athlete qualified for the Olympics. But each national Olympic committee is entitled to two places, one for a man and one for a woman, in athletics.

Just getting to London is an achievement in itself.

""There is not a single athletics track in the whole country," Farah said. ""Some have been used as army bases. Some have been destroyed. The talent is there but not the facilities.

""That young boy and young girl are already winners," he added. ""They are coming from a very, very rundown country where there is no opportunity for young people to train."

Farah, who celebrates his 44th birthday on the day of the opening ceremony, said of the two athletes: ""They have pride and want to show there is still a country called Somalia. We are here. Our country might be down but we are not dead."

The Somali athletes do not boast personal trainers or special team nutritionists. Mohamed has no training camp. He can not replace his running shoes. Instead he washes them.

Farah hopes to convey a positive message to the world from the Olympics.

The Somalia flag at the opening ceremony on July 27 will be carried by former world champion Abdi Bile who took sixth place in the 1,500 metres at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. ""It will make every Somali proud wherever they are," he said.

But inevitably Farah's thoughts at that opening night will turn back to his predecessor.

""He was like a father figure to me. He did not leave Somalia, he stayed. He refused to let Somali sport die," "he said, reflecting on life in a country which for 20 years has faced running battles between feuding warlords and then later Islamist militants fighting to overthrow a government supported by foreign forces. "

"He wanted to use sport as a tool of peace building," Farah said in simple tribute.

So will he shed a tear as Somalia joins the nations of the world in the Olympic stadium?"

"Yes, definitely," he confessed.


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