WEDDING OF THE CENTURY, Courtesy of IAAF website


25,000 guests attend Abera’s wedding in Addis Ababa
Tuesday 10 June 2003
About 25,000 Ethiopians were in attendance in Addis Ababa’s Stadium on Sunday, as Ethiopia’s World and Olympic Marathon champion Gezhagne Abera married fellow athlete Elfinesh Alemu, in probably the largest wedding ever held in the Ethiopian capital.

The wedding, which was originally scheduled to take place eight months ago, had been delayed after Abera injured himself in training and was ruled out of action for nearly a year.

Among the thousands who came to celebrate the athlete’s wedding, there were many public figures including Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis and Kenya’s five-time World Cross Country champion Paul Tergat, the man who saw his hopes of a first Marathon victory in London blown to pieces by Abera in April.

It was a spectacular wedding ceremony, with quadruple World and twice Olympic 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie acting as one of Abera’s six best men, the others being Million Wolde (Olympic 5000m champion); Fita Bayissa (Barcelona Olympics 5000m Bronze medallist); brothers Assefa and Ayele Mezgebu, and Belai Welashe. Two-time women’s Olympic 10,000m champion Derartu Tulu was Alemu’s maid-of-honour, along with Berhane Adere, Kutre Dulecha, and Fatuma Roba.

Alemu’s dress by Guinness Book of Records standards had the longest ever wedding dress train that stretched about 600m. About 300 students from government and community schools around Addis were needed to carry it, as it flowed around the running track in the stadium.

The event was also used for wider altruistic purposes highlighting the dangers of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of nearly one million Ethiopians. Alemu’s veil was cut into 1000 pieces so that attendants could sign a pledge on their piece expressing their commitment to protect themselves from the disease.

The wedding was made possible thanks to the efforts of Abeselom Yehdgeo, a man who two weeks ago funded the construction of a commemorative statue for Mexico Olympic Marathon champion Mamo Wolde. Thirteen other companies also gave their services for free, so that the wedding would be the best ever.

Abera will now be looking forward to the World Championships in Paris (23-31 August) where he makes an attempt to become the first man in history to win back-to-back World Championships Marathon victories. Alemu, also a Marathon runner - won the 2000 Nagano race and has a sub 2:25 PB - will also be looking to qualify for the Championships for the second time.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF :clap::clap: