The Commonwealth games and disappearing athletes

The Commonwealth Games, held in the Gold Coast, Australia during the first two weeks of April was a typical worldwide sporting event. The games spanned 11 days of events with 78 nations competing, culminating in a closing ceremony which paid tribute to the First Nations and their history in Australia. Australia won a total of 198 medals, 80 of which were gold.

However, not all things went to plan; restauranteurs complained that business was down as locals deserted the city for the games, scared off by the expected crowds to descend on the city. Taxis found their intake had decreased too, while, bizarrely for some nations competing, they found they had lost some athletes.

At least 13 participants from competing nations went missing as the competition drew to a close. The athletes, 8 from Camerooon, as well as more from Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, were found to have left the athlete’s village without a trace. The most likely reason for leaving is to find a better life for themselves in Australia however organisers of the games and officials of each nation urged the athletes to return while immigration stated that the athletes are free to travel around Australia until their visas expire.

Rumours abounded that some athletes had returned to a village where they had been training before the games. Warwick, 130 km south of Brisbane, housed the Cameroonian athletics squad for two weeks, however the mayor of the small town, Tracy Dobie has stated that there is no way they came back to the town, and someone in the town would have noticed anything unusual like that happening.

With over 6,000 visas initially granted for foreigners who attended the games expiring in early May, it is thought that the number still in Australia has grown to 100, mostly from African nations. Of those remaining in the country, many have applied for asylum and can stay in the country as their case is looked. Most fear going home for fear of persecution.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. It has been a regular occurrence at previous games, with disappearances being reported at the Melbourne games as well as previous games in Edinburgh in the UK, when one of the athletes on that occasion was found three days later in London nearly 650 kilometres away.