Kenya exile ruled out

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The Independent Online
The world 800-metre champion, Wilson Kipketer, has turned down an offer from his native Kenya to run in their team at the Atlanta Games and will now not compete, Olympic officials said yesterday.

Kipketer, who ran for Denmark in last year's world athletics championships but does not yet have full Danish citizenship, was offered a place by Kenya on Friday to allow him to take part at Atlanta after a row over his nationality. The International Olympic Committee ruled at a meeting on Friday that Kipketer, who has been based in Denmark for six years, was only eligible to compete at the Games for Kenya.

The Danes proposed last week that Kipketer be allowed to run under the Olympic flag, but the IOC rejected that solution. Kipketer qualifies for Danish citizenship next year, and until then he is ineligible under the Olympic Charter to run for Denmark as he is not a national of that country. Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee director of sports, said: "He has refused the proposal. The reason he gave was that he said he considers himself to be Danish."

World track's governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, has different eligibility rules. Kipketer won gold for Denmark in the 800m at last year's world championships.

Before the Olympic committee's meeting to decide on Kipketer, the IAAF president, Primo Nebiolo, blasted Danish officials for not bending their nationality rules for Kipketer. "We don't understand the Danish people," Nebiolo said. "They were so proud of him when he won at the world championships last year, and now they are putting so many difficulties for the Olympic Games. I feel sorry for him. They are destroying this boy."

Kipketer's decision comes as a blow to athletics and Olympic organisers, who had been hoping Kipketer could use Atlanta's fast track to threaten Sebastian Coe's 15-year-old 800m record. At a meeting in Nice, France, on Wednesday, Kipketer ran the world's fastest time for 11 seasons and came within 0.8sec of Coe's record of 1min 41.73sec.

The IOC executive board also listened to pitches from 11 cities bidding to host the 2004 summer games. The candidates are: Athens; Buenos Aires; Cape Town; Istanbul; Lille; Rio de Janeiro; Rome; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Seville; Stockholm, and St Petersburg. The record field will be reduced to four or five next March, with the winner selected in September 1997. Rome is considered the front-runner.