LONDON, England (AFP) — Seven Cameroon athletes have disappeared while at the London Olympics and, although their visas remain valid, British police have been informed, a spokeswoman for Games organisers LOCOG said yesterday.
The Cameroon team informed LOCOG that the competitors had left the Athletes' Village on the Olympic Park and asked for assistance in tracking them down, spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle said.
"They have been reported as missing but they have visas to stay in this country until November, so right now they haven't done anything wrong," she said.
The state daily Cameroon Tribune reported that the group was made up of five boxers, one swimmer and one woman football player.
The head of Cameroon's Olympics delegation, David Ojong, was quoted as saying that seven of Cameroon's 28-member delegation had "defected".
A member of Cameroon's footballing federation, which the missing footballer belongs to, criticised the athletes for using their sporting clubs as "immigration gateways".
"Athletes have the right to their dreams. They have the right to provide themselves with the means to realise those dreams, but they must not use money from the state of Cameroon to do it," footballing federation spokesman and marketing head Junior Benyam said.
He called the athletes' disappearance a "flagrant violation of the regulations governing the operation of national teams".
Herve Emmanuel Nkom, the ex-manager of Cameroon soccer team Dynamo de Douala who is now a politician, said the incident was indicative of a broader problem in Cameroon sports.
"Sport is sick in Cameroon," he said. "I'm sad, but also I understand. These youngsters, for various reasons, wanted to see their sport flourish elsewhere."
The sports ministry of the west African country and its high commission in London both declined to comment, as did London's Metropolitan police.
Cameroon has not won any medals at the London Games, which end on Sunday.