Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Missing Cameroon athletes may be looking for 'greener pastures'

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:58 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Cameroon boxer Serge Ambomo is one of the athletes who have gone missing from the Olympics. (File)
Cameroon boxer Serge Ambomo is one of the athletes who have gone missing from the Olympics. (File)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Olympic official from Cameroon believes defection is likely
  • The seven athletes -- six men and a woman -- walked away from the Olympic village
  • Headlines in Cameroon refer to the athletes as "missing"

(CNN) -- The seven missing in London.

That's what the headlines in the West African nation of Cameroon call the athletes who walked away from the Olympic village at the London Games.

The Cameroon athletes -- five male boxers, a female footballer and a male swimmer -- walked away from the Olympic village last week, immediately raising questions about their intentions.

While the Cameroon Olympic delegation has stopped short of saying the athletes planned to defect, at least one member of the country's national Olympic committee believes it's more than likely.

From Cameroon to the NBA
1948 Olympian recalls Games
The human cost of Olympic gold

"Back home, they aren't giving the proper training. They know if they are well trained, they could beat the person from another country," Aka Amuam Joseph told CNN during a recent interview outside a sports training facility in Cameroon. Joseph also serves as a member of the Cameroon Karate Federation.

"It pains them to be here and see people beat them, who they can beat if they are well taken care of."

Nothing has been heard from the athletes since they went missing, said David Ojong, Cameroon's head of mission to London 2012, but said, but their compatriots "hope and believe" the athletes will rejoin the group before they return to Cameroon.

Athletes competing at the London Games have visas that allow them to stay in the United Kingdom until November 8, according to authorities.

Footballer Drusille Ngako, who was one of the team's reserve players, was the first of the seven to disappear. She went missing on July 26, Ojong said.

Swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue and boxers Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Yhyacinthe Abdon Mewoli, Serge Ambomo and Blaise Yepmou Mendouo haven't been seen since last Monday, he said.

The Cameroonian delegation approached the Games organizers and the High Commission of Cameroon in London as soon as they became aware of the missing athletes, Ojong has said.

Pictures of the athletes this week adorned the front pages of newspapers in Cameroon, including Le Jour which carried the banner headline: "The Seven Missing in London."

Since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, dozens of athletes from Cameroon have defected.

Cameroon, with a population of about 20 million, is one of the world's poorest nations, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It has little money to develop top-notch training facilities, one of the reasons Joseph believes the athletes going looking for "greener pastures."

"Why do Nigerians not flee away? Why do people from South Africa not flee away? When you go there, you see infrastructure of the highest level," Joseph said. "Why don't they flee? They know that what they find in Europe, they find back home."

The training facilities in Cameroon are spartan. It's Olympic boxing facility offers just one ring in a building with a concrete floor, peeling paint and wooden spectator benches. Its weight room offers a limited selection and a peeling carpet.

"I am positively convinced that if the government did more in this field, we would have little of this disturbance," Joseph said.

Athletes and team officials have been allowed to seek permission to enter and remain in the United Kingdom without a visa from March 30 to November 8.

CNN's Jo Shelley, Richard Allen Greene and journalist Tapang Ivo contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
updated 5:44 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
updated 11:05 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
updated 8:46 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Sat August 4, 2012
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?
ADVERTISEMENT