Aouita outran Bile decisively in the Oslo 1,500 in July, then escaped Bile's revenge in Rome by running, and winning, the 5,000 there. At the World Cup, Aouita put on display his usual heedless hauteur. 'That 5,000 was no harder than sitting in a chair and watching it on TV," he said, and added that he would be returning to the 1,500 for the Olympics because there was no one to challenge him in the longer distance.
If there is one thing Bile knows from both sides now, it is milers' rhetoric. "I'm the world 1,500-meter champion," he says. "Aouita is not. He might feel he needs to beat me, but I don't feel I have to go hunt him down. If he comes for me, I'll be ready."
When fortune places a man even on the mere hem of her robe
He quickly becomes overbearing.
A small milking vessel when filled to the brim soon overflows.
It happens that the plane bringing home Somalia's only world champion in all eternity touches down at Mogadishu's pastel pink, blue and yellow airport on Christmas morning, scattering a flock of ibis. Bile is first off, in suit, tie and Rome gold medal. He survives a 200-yard receiving line of dignitaries and dancing, chanting women. Girls known as "Flowers of the 21st of October Revolution" strew petals in his path. He is taken to a steamy, tumultuous VIP lounge, where he assures everyone that he remains unspoiled by victory and is but the first of many Somali champions.
Then a small man stands before him, clutching papers. The room stills. "The Somali flag has long been suffering unfamiliarity," the man begins, speaking in Somali, "but today is different...." Bile's expression softens, his gaze going far away.
"This is our welcome," continues the poet, "from our president and people. You have defeated both enemies and friends of Somalia. We praise thee, brother, for raising the flag in a place it has never been. We welcome you to enjoy the wealth of our country...." The verses continue for a full five minutes, describing everything Bile will see on a journey home, including "all the beautiful girls you know."
Bile blinks a lot, solemnly, and wipes his brow. When the poem is done, there is loud applause. "I am also a poet," Bile says when it dies, "and I am so moved that I'd like to reply...but not now, not without thought."
Then everyone sprints for the cars. Bile is put in an open-topped van, surrounded by an honor guard of runners, and leads a procession the three miles into the city. Hundreds of barefoot kids run ecstatically beside the waving champion: they appear from the rocky side lanes, the tin shacks. Mothers come trotting with their babies. The cars wedge past donkey carts piled with firewood. Thus the ancient Olympians were carried toward their city's gates.
The Somali faces along the roadside are bright or bemused, thoroughly thrilled, but gently so. An old clubmate of Bile's, one of his vanguard runners, seems to acknowledge this. He yells, "It is even more marvelous than you see!"
One characteristic of the Men of the Golden Age: they are always remembered as migratory.
The Song lines