Monthly Archives: August 2012

Olympic refugees

Damiano Benzoni

During the Parade of Nations he had carried the flag of his country with pride in front of the London Olympic Stadium. Few, seeing him, could have imagined that one Sunday morning Weynay Ghebresilasie, the flag-bearer of Eritrea, would leave the Olympic village to seek asylum at the UK Border Agency. A steeplechase runner, Ghebresilasie is only the last of a list of athletes who disappeared from the Olympic village. And while the Georgian judoka Betkil Shuk’vani, whose story we already featured, ran away in order to get back to his own country, seven Cameroonians, three Sudanese, four Congolese, three Ivorians, three Guineans and three other Eritreans made the choice to disappear and leave their country. The Olympic permits released by the UK Border Agency to the athletes and their families won’t expire until November 8th: only after such date does their permanence on British soil become illegal. LOCOG, the Games’ organising committee, underlined that, not having any of the athletes infringed any law or rule, it isn’t entitled to take any kind of measure against them. Continue reading

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Georgian Dream and Shuk’vani’s nightmare

Damiano Benzoni

A loss in a judo bout, a flight from the window and unbearable political pressure: the story of the Georgian judoka Betkil Shuk’vani may be the most eventful and politicised of the whole London Olympics. It’s quite difficult to establish the truth about what happened, as the two contending parts have divergent versions: the facts tell the story of an athlete who disappeared from the Olympic village in London only to reappear a fortnight later in Tbilisi. In a press conference, Shuk’vani accused the most important members of the country’s Olympic delegation of intimidation and pressure caused by his political affiliation. He told he escaped the village in order to avoid beatings by a member of the Georgian ministry of Sport and Youth Policies. The story was given coverage by the Italian version of the Russian news agency Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and by the Georgian website Ambebi. Continue reading

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