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German foreign minister among 91,000 running across Scandinavia's new link

German foreign minister among 91,000 running across Scandinavia's new link

12 June 2000 - Copenhagen, Denmark - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was among more than 91,000 people who ran Monday in a half-marathon to celebrate a 17-kilometre link between Copenhagen and Sweden's third largest city.

The race was the last of a four-day popular event to let some 200,000 Danes and Swedes walk, bike, roller skate or run across the Oresund link, which consists of an underground tunnel, an artificial island and a bridge and will be opened for motorised traffic on July 1.

The race started on the Danish side, 200 metres (660 feet) from the opening of the 3.5-kilometre underwater tunnel. They emerged onto the 4-kilometre (2.5 mile) artificial island, then ran onto the 7.8-kilometre (4.8-mile) two-level bridge that lands just south of Malmo, a city on Sweden's southwestern tip.

The runners, from all over Europe, continued about 5 kilometres through the city, 615 kilometres south-west of the capital, Stockholm, before crossing the finish line.

The race, which had 91,229 people enrolled, started at 9:20 a.m. (0720 GMT) with a wheelchair race, followed by elite runners.

Tsefaye Tola of Ethiopia won the 21.1-metres (13.1-miles) race in 59 minutes, 46 seconds, followed by Kenya's Philip Rugut with 59:57 and Faustin Baha of Tanzania with 1:00:02.

``The race was really tough and it was hard to breathe properly in the tunnel,'' the 25-year-old Tola told the Swedish news agency TT. ``There was no fresh air.''

Fischer, a once-chubby member of the environmental Greens party, became an avid jogger and disciple of healthy eating after separating from his third wife in 1996. He ran his first marathon last year in Hamburg, Germany, and in November, he finished the New York Marathon in less than 4 hours.

Fischer, who finished the race in 1:47, said he was satisfied with his time.

``The run was tough because it was very hot in the tunnel,'' Fischer said after meeting with his Danish counterpart, Niels Helveg Petersen, for brief political talks. ``And then there was the very long uphill run to reach the top of the bridge.''

At its highest point, the bridge is 70 metres above sea level.

Construction of the 29-billion-kroner (dlrs 3.7 billion) link, began in 1995 to let trucks, trains and cars avoid the time-consuming and costly process of transferring to ferries and spur trade between northern and southern Europe.