Olympic Games officials to Togo team: Please call home

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The Independent Online

Australia is searching high and low for Togo's Olympic team - two athletes and four officials - who have gone missing on their way to a pre-Games training camp in Adelaide. The team representing the tiny west African state was supposed to arrive nearly a fortnight ago.

Australia is searching high and low for Togo's Olympic team - two athletes and four officials - who have gone missing on their way to a pre-Games training camp in Adelaide. The team representing the tiny west African state was supposed to arrive nearly a fortnight ago.

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) officials have tried in vain to contact them by telephone, fax and e-mail. The AOC's Olympic training co-ordinator, Clive Lee, said yesterday he hoped they would turn up in Australia before the Games begin in Sydney on 15 September. But he added: "There's a distinct possibility the Togo team won't make it."

Togo is one of 11 African countries which accepted an offer to train in Adelaide as part of a development programme that helped Sydney win its bid to host the Olympics. Athletes from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mali and Uganda have already arrived and are intensifying their training in swimming pools and on running tracks.

Although no one from Togo qualified for the Olympics at last year's All-Africa Games, every country is entitled to enter a male and female athlete of any standard in track events. They in turn can bring along a coach, a manager, a doctor and a chef de mission.

Mr Lee said he thought it possible the Togo team had diverted to France, which he said, had been giving financial support to sportsmen and women in its former African colonies. "It may be thatthey got an offer from France and whipped over there instead," he said.

"The problem is that communications are very poor with certain parts of Africa, and it can be tremendously difficult to get through. Of course, they may also be trying to get through to us to tell us when they are coming."

When Mr Lee last saw officials from Togo, at a conference in Rio de Janeiro three months ago, they told him they planned to arrive on 3 or 4 August.

"They could have changed their minds for all sorts of reasons of which we know not," he said. "They could still turn up, and I wouldn't be in the least surprised if they did."

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