IN BISHOFTU, ETHIOPIA
Throughout his career, Ethiopia’s athletics great Haile Gebrselassie has been running, breaking records and witnessing the sport from inside the track field.
But for the past year, the former marathon world record holder, has been running to reform the sport he dedicated his life to, but this time from inside the office.
The former long-distance runner spoke to AIPS (International Sports Press Association) about the differences between the two worlds during the 21st annual General Assembly of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation last weekend at Bishoftu, Ethiopia which marked the first anniversary of Gebrselassie as president of EAF.
Talking of the presidency, a year ago this time, the whole world was paying attention to learn who will succeed Barack Obama as 45th president of the United States of America between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Ethiopians were eager to know who will be at the helm of athletics for the next four years.
Whereas Donald Trump made it to the White House, Haile Gebrselassie said, in his own words, he was going to the “Black House” after his much needed but unexpected victory to become head of Ethiopian Athletics, a position unofficially reserved for high ranked politicians in the past.
Many saw his candidacy as beacon of hope for Ethiopian athletics, in the notion of “profession for professionals.”
Even though Haile is a proven champion and leader in his business, the precedent made many of his fans reluctant, considering him an outsider to become the president.
However, surprisingly enough, he beat his more political competitors comfortably to become the president, a position according to many, fit for an individual with Haile’s calibre.
“The toughest circumstances during my first year as a president was the existing obsolete bureaucracy of the federation that sacrifices our motivations and dedications in the name of organizational system.”
“I will definitely say that my biggest success so far is reinstating Ethiopian athletics name to its cleaner brand after knowing that few athletes were associated with doping.
“We had more than 340 athletes tested for doping with zero positive results.
“I also made many amendments to make the organization system so effective and boost the income of the federation by closely working with potential sponsors.”
“I found that breaking records is hundred times easier than leadership.
“This is because when you are running it is up to you, to your speed, endurance and tactics.
“But when you come to leadership, you have to listen to others, respect their opinions and most importantly win their trust to bring them along with your ideas to make the difference you wish,” Haile told AIPS.
“Many people may think that Haile is warming up for a global athletics leadership position, but I can assure you, that I have no interest at all to pursue for the leadership of either Confederation of African Athletics or International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“My leadership goal is only serving my country.”
Haile also emphasised that he had the most committed amateur executive committee members, which include four successful athletes during their running time, who know what the sport and the athlete needs to bring success.
After completing his reform, his next move is to achieve results and he feels that he is on the right track.
Will he be right?
Only time will tell.
Report by Haileegziabher Adhanom, International Sports Press Association - AIPS