Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde - statues in their prime (Girum Seifu) © Copyright
General News

Campaign launched to re-erect Bikila and Wolde statues

The names of Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde hold a legendary aura in the history of the Olympics. The two Ethiopian runners gave their country an Olympic marathon monopoly in the 1960s, from Bikila’s barefoot victory along a torch lit Appian Way in Rome 1960 - Ethiopia’s first ever gold medal - and then his successful defence in 1964 in Tokyo - this time wearing shoes - to Wolde’s title win in Mexico City in 1968, when aged 38.

Bikila died on 25 October 1973 and Wolde passed away on 26 May 2002, and in their honour statues were erected by a grateful nation in St. Joseph cemetery in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

However, on the evening of 7 March 2007 the statues were vandalized and while the police have been investigating they so far they have not been able to identify the criminals.

Girum Seifu, a photojournalist for the Addis Admass newspaper, saw the damage on the 8 March and took the pictures shown here.

The Ethiopians everywhere remain shocked by this act of wanton destruction, and it has similarly affected many athletics fans worldwide including sports photographer Jiro Mochizuki who works in Paris for the respected Japanese international photo-agency, ‘Agence SHOT’, and who on visiting the cemetery recently found the site completely covered by a tarpaulin.

In quick response to the outrage Mochizuki sent pictures of the damaged statues to his colleague Ito Takashi, the director of Agence Shot in Tokyo, and together they have decided to make a fundraising campaign to repair them.

Bikila and Wolde are still remembered by many Japanese people as two of the greatest marathon runners because Bikila won the Tokyo Olympic Marathon in a stunning solo run while Mamo Wolde won in a dead heat with Japanese silver medallist Kenji Kimihara in Mexico City; both of them are still heroes to Japanese marathon fans.

For further information about the campaign, go to the following page in Japanese and English -


Chris Turner
IAAF Editorial Manager