Team Mo Farah get ready for Somali joy


Click to follow
The Independent Online

When a Conservative MP derided Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony as "multicultural crap" he was met with a cascade of criticism from people who knew that he could not be more wrong.

Tomorrow, their point will be driven home when Mo Farah, the Somalia-born British long-distance runner, steps up at the Olympic Stadium, cheered on by two countries of fans. Farah, 29, will compete in the men's 10,000-metre final – an event he took the silver medal in at last year's World Championships and for which he holds the European track record. It will mark the culmination of an extraordinary journey from the streets of Mogadishu.

Farah's story serves as an inspiration, both in his country of birth, where his charity, the Mo Farah Foundation, feeds thousands left hungry by the famine, and in the UK.

"Mo means so much to young Somalis," said Yussef Ahmed, the co-ordinator of Islington Somali Community Group. "Somalis usually come to the UK as refugees and their biggest concern is how to settle with a different culture and language. It can be difficult and many young Somali men lose their self-esteem and some turn to crime and anti- social behaviour. But in the past five years things have begun to improve – and Mo has been a part of that. He has been a role model."

Farah was brought to England at the age of eight by his father. At 11 he moved to Feltham Community College, where his talent was spotted early on by his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, who recalls meeting the ungainly boy who could only speak a few words of English.

"He was clearly extremely talented. He had a huge stride length and an effortless running style," Mr Watkinson told The Independent.

"Young Somalis think 'I could do that'," said Mr Ahmed. "He represents everything that they might achieve in any walk of life."