GER attracts huge running tourists, Haile Gebre-Sellassie


This time of year Great Ethiopian Run (GER) attracts huge crowds of running tourists. The initial purpose of the run was to promote Ethiopia to outsiders. That has been achieved in just 11 years’ time, athletics legend Haile Gebre-Selassie said during a press conference at Hilton on Friday.
Putting together 36, 000 participants, the 12th annual Commercial Bank of Ethiopia Great Ethiopian Run which starts and ends at Meskel Square will take place today, Sunday November 25.  The London Olympic’s women’s marathon gold medalist Tiki Gelana along with Haile will be at the starter’s podium at Meskel Square. Five hundred international athletes along with 340 men’s and 200 women’s Ethiopian club runners will take part in the elite event the same day. Known Ethiopian men’s athletes like Ayeleabshiro, Lelisa Disasa and Yenew Alamrew are expected to take part in today’s event.
Sunday is also marking the culmination of two months of festivities celebrating the 125th anniversary of the city of Addis Ababa. 
When the first international mass participation 10km road race began in Ethiopia in 2001 the participants numbered 10,000.  “The biggest worry at the start was the inability to know the appetite of the people in taking part in a mass road race. Fearing this we produced only 10,000 shirts and medals. To be on the safe side we made the entry fee 10 birr,” ErmiasAyele, General Manager of the GER said on the occasion. He added that tickets  were sold out in just a few days. “Year after year the number of participants has dramatically gone up to reach the current 36, 000, making it Africa’s greatest road race,” he said.
The 2012 GER title sponsor is the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE). In its 70 years of existence CBE has 580 branches. President of Human Resources at CBE, Seifu Bogale, said that the CBE has extended its operations threefold since the GER began 11 years ago. “We are proud to be the title sponsor of this big national and international running event,” he said.
The Vice President added that the Bank has a social responsibility to assist the country’s sports. “CBE formed the sports club under its name 28 years ago. It is instrumental in producing great athletes like Meseret Defar and Million Wolde who collected Olympic gold medals. Sponsoring the GER is part and parcel of our mission of promoting sports activities in the country,” he remarked.
There will be a 40,000 birr prize for the winners of both the men’s and women’s elite events.