Ten surprising tidbits about Ethiopia and past Olympics
Ethiopia first participated in the Olympic Games in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, sending six athletes to represent. Here are ten tidbits I am sure some of you may not be aware of .
1. Everybody already knows Abebe “the barefoot” Bikila was the first Ethiopian and first black African to take gold in the Maraton at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
However, Bikila nearly missed the chance twice to grab his second gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when he nearly faced dire consquences for his ill-role in the 1960 failed Coup(which he was later pardoned) and later when he collapsed with acute appendicitis a month prior to the Tokyo games.
3. In 1967, Ethiopia was first country to threaten to boycott the Mexico Olympics if the International Olympic Committee(IOC) lifted its ban on South African participation. Within a few months, three dozen countries joined Ethiopia’s boycott proposal.
In the end Ethiopia prevailed, and Ethiopia’s Mamo Wolde would become the second Ethiopian to bring home a gold medal in the Marathon and a silver in the 10,000m.
4. In 1972, 12 Ethiopians were represented at the Munich Olympics, where Miruts Yifter took the bronze in the Men’s 10000m and Mamo Wolde grab bronze in the Men’s marathon.
5. In 1976, all African countries boycotted the Montreal Olympics to protest the IOC’s refusal to ban New Zealand’s particpation for sending its national rugby team to south Africa on a game tour.
6. At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Some 60 nations boycotted the event to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Ethiopian Miruts Yifter grab the gold in men’s in the Men’s 5000m and 10000m. Ethiopian Mohamed Kedir took the bronze in the Men’s 10000m and Eshetu Tura took bronze in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase.
7. In 1984 and 1988 Ethiopia joined the Soviet Union and its ally communist governments in boycotting the Los Angelos and Souel Olympics in what the Soviet’s said was for security reasons—most believe it was in retalliation to the USA’s 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
8. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Ethiopia returned to the games, where 12 Ethiopian atheletes participated. Derartu Tulu became the first Ethiopian and African woman to win a gold medal in the 10,000m. .She took gold again eight years later at the 2000 Syndey Olympics.
9. In 1996, Haile Gebrselassie debuted at the Atlanta Olympics, taking a gold medal in the 10,000m Gete Wami took bronze in the women’s 10000m. Fatuma Roba became he first Ethiopian woman to come in first place in the woman’s marathon. Nineteen Ethiopians participated in alll.
10. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Ethiopia scored the most medals than any other country, grabbing four gold, one silver, and three bronze . Twenty-six Ethiopians participated .
(Photo: 1960 Ethiopian Olympic Pin, available on ebay for $199)
(Sources: Historical Dictionary of the Olympic Movement, More Than a Game: When Sport and History Collide)