MOGADISHU – The two athletes who will represent Somalia in the Olympics left Mogadishu yesterday for London to attend the Games which will open later this month.
They have trained amid the bullets and bloodshed of a 20-year devastating civil war.They have endured a famine that affected 12 million and killed more than 100 000 of their countrymen less than two years ago.And now they are about to touch down in England to live the dream of millions of Somalis at the 2012 London Olympics.
At a rapturous send-off ceremony, Zamzam Mohamed Farah and Mohamed Hassan Mohamed Tayow were accompanied by their coach and members of their family to the airport in Mogadishu.
Top Somali government officials including the major of Mogadishu, Mohamed Nur Tarsan, were at the ceremony to see off the athletes. The Somali national anthem was played at the celebration in honour of the athletes who were visibly emotional at the support given to them by the Somali people and leaders.
Farah, who will participate in the women’s 400m, said she felt huge responsibility for her people and country and promised to do her best at the games in London.
“I am very happy because, since yesterday, we have met the highest government officials, including the Prime Minister, the major of Mogadishu and the minister of sport, as well as parliamentarians and the honorable public and the media. I say to the Somali people: thank you very much for your support to us and we will shoulder our responsibly,” said Zamzam with tears in her eyes.
Tayow who will compete in the men’s 1,500m also told reporters at the airport that he and his compatriot would bring victory to the country.
“I am very very happy to be representing my people, country, and flag at the London 2012 Games. This year people are united in supporting us and Somalis everywhere expect of us victory. The government, the sports officials, the people of Somalia and the media have given us total support,” Tayow said.
Life has been a horror story for millions of Somalis, several of whom have fled the country for their lives. Some promising Somali athletes have been absorbed into the programmes of other nations to which they have fled. The outstanding Mo Farah, one of Britain’s top Olympic hopes whose family fled Mogadishu shortly before the fall of the Said Barre’s regime, is perhaps the most high profile example of this.