Haile Gebrselassie expects more athletes to follow his lead and drop out of some events at the Olympics because of Beijing's notorious air pollution.
The two-time Olympic 10,000-meter champion said Monday he was disappointed about not competing in the marathon but that there was no way he would reconsider running the race at the games in August. "My decision not to run in Beijing is definite. Now I have to decide whether to run the 10,000 meters," Gebrselassie told Efe news agency. "I was in the city in August and I know what the extreme conditions of pollution, heat and humidity are. It's going to be the hardest marathon in history."
The IOC's top medical officer, however, said Beijing's air quality is better than expected and that humidity might be a greater threat to athletes than the city's noxious air.
"They can say what they like but the reality is different," Gebrselassie said. "I'd love to go for it, but health is my first priority."
Justine Henin has already said she won't defend her tennis gold medal. The four-time French Open champion blamed the pollution for aggravating her asthma.
Some long-distance runners could wear face masks to counter the problem.
The 34-year-old Gebrselassie, who holds the world marathon record of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 26 seconds, sees the 10,000 as a viable option.
"The 10,000 presents a lot less problems. It's four times shorter, it's being run in the afternoon, it'll be less hot with less humidity," the Ethiopian said.
Gebrselassie also expressed his desire to end his career with a gold medal at the 2012 London Games, though he didn't expect the world record to drop under two hours by then.
"It'll be hard to get under two hours in the next 20 years," he said.