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Sochi Olympics could host cross country running

March 22 – Cross country running could be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics after the International Association of Athletics Federations supported its introduction.

A proposal first suggested six month ago by Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Paul Tergat – three of the greatest distance runners in history – is fast gathering momentum.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have now officially backed the plan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said that they will investigate it closely after the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Gebrselassie, Bekele and Tergat – who between them have won five Olympic gold medals, 16 World Cross-Country titles and own every world record between 5,000 metres and the marathon – wrote to Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC, last September asking him to consider their proposal.

Lamine Diack, the President of the IAAF, said: “The IOC have now written to us to ask our advice and we have told them that we are in favour of it.

“We are prepared to organise cross country in the Winter Olympics.

“It would be a good move for our sport.”

The IAAF failed in an attempt last year to get the IOC to include cross-country on the programme for the Winter Games.

The IOC replied that it was not possible because the Winter Olympic programme must be practised on “snow or ice”.

But Diack has said that they are happy for the event to be held on snow if it would mean it could be included in the Olympics when they are staged in Sochi.

Diack, who is also a member of the IOC, is hoping that next year’s World Cross Country Championships, which were today awarded to Bydgoszcz in Poland, will help the sport’s cause.

He said: “It will be very cold in Bydgoszcz – no more than three degrees and possibly snowing.

“People will see that these great runners can still stage a magnificent spectacle in such conditions.”

Cross-country was dropped from the Olympics after the 1924 Games in Paris when 23 of the 38 starters failed to finish due to the extreme heat and poisonous fumes from a nearby energy plant.

The advantage of having the sport in the Winter Olympics is that it would give the African countries, like Kenya and Ethiopia, the opportunity to win a medal at an event they currently rarely make an impression in.

But the traditional winter sports are not expected to back the proposal when it is formally discussed next year.

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