A Congolese judoka and other sporting officials sent to the London Olympics have disappeared as the Games came to a close, just days after seven Cameroonian athletes went missing.
Two coaches, judoka Cedric Mandembo and the national technical director of athletics from the Democratic Republic of the Congo vanished from the Olympic Village over the weekend, the United Nations-sponsored Radio Okapi station reported.
The four could not be reached on their cellphones and had left with their luggage, according to the station. A search for the delegates was launched Sunday. Agence France-Presse also reported the disappearance, citing an anonymous official in the Congolese sports ministry.
The disappearances follow those of the Cameroonian athletes, some of whom have since told British media that they want to stay in the country after being threatened by national athletics officials. Boxer Blaise Yepmou Mendouo told the BBC that Cameroonian officials asked for their passports when they lost bouts. Cameroon Olympic delegation chief David Ojong denied their claims.
The defections were seen sympathetically by some countrymen. “Admittedly not all of them are going to succeed, but those who are a bit lucky will be able to train one day under good conditions, will be paid correctly, which is currently very far from being the case for athletes engaged in Cameroon,” Cameroonian journalist Jean-Bruno Tagne told Radio Netherlands Worldwide after the disappearances.
Athletes have used international sporting events in the past as an opportunity to defect for political or economic reasons. State media in Cameroon, reflecting on the new round of disappearances, said that nation's defecting athletes in years past had been lured away by scouts and often ended up frustrated with their decision.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Judoka Cedric Mandembo, right, with training partner Rigen Bintu during July preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games. Credit: Junior D. Kannah / Agence France-Presse