My friend posted a link on Facebook to a really intriguing article by Foreign Policy about how several members of the Cameroon delegation had disappeared during the course of the Olympics. When I first read the title about missing Olympians, I thought it was related to a kidnapping, but it turned out to be much more complex than that. These Olympians are most likely sneaking out on their own accord in order to avoid having to return to their home country at the end of the games! I never even thought about how incidents like this can happen before reading this article, but apparently it is not uncommon and has happened multiple times before.
I guess it goes back to the general desire to have a better life. The Olympics and other sporting events provide the perfect entry into another country as borders are pretty much dropped to allow athletes from all over the globe to participate. Usually, sneaking across borders is one of the most difficult parts of emigrating into a different country without the proper documents, but using sporting events to gain entry first is actually pretty clever.
The article has a few more interesting examples of disappearances and defections in sporting events such as half of the 1956 Olympic delegation from Hungary and many Cuban athletes seeking political asylum. It makes me wonder how nations will react if more incidents like this continue to happen. Will they begin to keep closer attention and add more restrictions to teams that are sent to compete in large sporting events? Will they decide not to participate at all to prevent their citizens from escaping? And what about the countries in which these athletes are escaping? What new policies, if any, will they need to create when hosting such events? The International Olympic Committee claim they are unaware of the disappearances but it would be fascinating to see how they would address such cases.