Kenenisa, Meseret Get Honourable Citizenship of Athens
September 8, 2005
The Athens Olympics 10,000 and 5,000 meters gold medallists, Kenenisa Bekele and Meseret Defar were given the honourable citizenship of Athens on Wednesday in a ceremony held at the Greek club.
The Charge'd'Affaires of the Greek Embassy in Ethiopia Mr. Michael Karabalis didn't conceal his pleasure when handing over the certificate of the honourable citizenship of Athens sent by the Mayor of Athens Ms. Dora (Thewodora) Bakoyanni to the great Ethiopian duo.
"I got Olympic gold medal in Athens. This is the first big achievement in my life. And now I am the honourable citizen of Athens. This is great. For me Athens is everything," the joyful Meseret said.
"My primary wish was to take gold in the Olympics. For an athlete, there is no greater award than winning gold in Olympics. I got it. I didn't expect to get this great opportunity. It is an honour for me to receive such grandiose gift. I would like to thank them. I am now a natural Ethiopian. Plus, citizen of Athens," she added.
On his part Kenenisa said that he is delighted by this unexpected offer.
"This is my first time to be a citizen of another city. My home is Ethiopia. This is a great addition. I didn't expect I would get such honour from the capital of Greece. I am happy about it," he said.
Mr. Michael Karabalis stressed the importance of sports in Greek tradition.
"In ancient Greek, studying basic education like philosophy would not make you complete in education. Sports and music are indispensable parts of education. The belief was that one has to be physically and mentally sound," he said during a chat with Kenenisa and Meseret. He expressed his respect for the strong Ethiopian athletes. The national coach Tolosa Kotu said that this is very encouraging.
"I would go so far as to say that this would reside in this soul of all Ethiopian Athletes. It should be categorised or rationally understood as special gift," he said.
Kenenisa and Meseret will participate in the golden league and grand prix in Monaco scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Kenenisa said that he is happy in his world record breaking performance in Brussels a couple weeks ago.