Seven Cameroonian athletes go missing from Olympics
Five boxers, a swimmer and a footballer have disappeared, possibly to claim asylum.
Authorities reported seven Olympic athletes from Cameroon disappeared, probably to claim asylum and escape from Cameroon’s economic conditions.
Cameroon mission head Mr David Ojong informed the government about the possible defections on Monday night after rumours swept that the athletes had gone missing.
Ojong explained that the first to disappear was a reserve goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, Drusille Ngako. She vanished while her team-mates left for Coventry for their last match against New Zealand.
Some days later, just before competing, swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue disappeared along with his personal belongings.
The last Cameroonians to disappear were the five boxers after their elimination from the Games: Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Abdon Mewoli, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo.
They went missing on Sunday night and they were last seen two days before, during a team reception at the Royal Garden Hotel, next to Kensington Palace.
This one is believed to be the biggest defection in the history of the Games, but it is not the first time Cameroonian athletes disappeared during international competitions. At past Francophonie and Commonwealth games, several Cameroonians quit their delegation without officials’ consent.
The athletes’ disappearance has received a lot of attention from the local population and press, and people confirmed they were disappointed by their attitude.
Henri Tchounga, a tour guide living and working in Yaounde said: “The conditions in Cameroon are very difficult; my fear is that now Cameroonians will have a bad reputation and in future we will not be able to get visas.”
An economist from Cameroon, Flaubert Mbiekop, said: “The bottom line is to look at the economic conditions in Cameroon and see how hard the system is for many people, especially the athletes who don’t receive any support from the government. London presented an opportunity; I’m not at all surprised that they took it.”
The athletes are not breaking any British laws so far, as Olympic athletes are allowed to stay in the country until early November.
Sources from the Home Office confirmed that athletes were free to leave the Olympic village as they wished. Officials, despite not being able to find any of their belongings, suggested, at first, the group went sightseeing or visiting friends. But the Cameroon’s head mission to London 2012 confirmed officials’ fears that the group absconded to claim asylum at a later date.