Long-distance runner Feyisa Lilesa, 26, managed to hold on to collect silver in an exciting race that saw Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge cement his status as “the most commanding marathon runner of the current generation”, according to the IAAF.
He crossed his wrists above his head in a move that shows support to the protests that started November 2015, in response to the government’s privatisation of certain areas of land and plans to expand the area of the capital Addis Ababa further into Oromo land.
“Oromo is my tribe … Oromo people now protest what is right, for peace, for a place,” Lilesa says. He fears that the government will persecute him should he return to Ethiopia, according to Reuters.
Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Getachew Reda described Lilesa as “an Ethiopian hero,” saying he “shouldn’t at all be worried” to return.
In response, Reda told CNN in it’s “a bit of a stretch to assume that your loved ones will be at risk because you have made one gesture or another. I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family nothing is going to happen to him.”
Rule 50 of the Olympic charter bans political displays or protests and the IOC say they are gathering information about the case.