Gone walkabout

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The Independent Online

We thought that this sort of thing went out with the Cold War. Back in those days, the Olympics were not the Olympics without the odd Bulgarian Greco-Roman wrestler and Cuban fencing team in its entirety fleeing their minders and turning up in the local police station to ask for political asylum - unless of course the Games were taking place in Moscow.

We thought that this sort of thing went out with the Cold War. Back in those days, the Olympics were not the Olympics without the odd Bulgarian Greco-Roman wrestler and Cuban fencing team in its entirety fleeing their minders and turning up in the local police station to ask for political asylum - unless of course the Games were taking place in Moscow.

But the defection bug has now clearly spread to more fortunate lands. The Sydney Olympics have produced a predictable crop of 30 applicants from developing countries for refugee status. It emerges, however, that 108 participants from 61 countries have also overstayed their visas and gone absent without leave. These missing persons include eight Britons, 11 Americans, as well as Japanese and Germans.

So what's happened? Maybe they have been swept away by the undeniable charms of Oz. Maybe they simply performed so badly in the Games that they are embarrassed to come home. Either way, we doubt the same thing will happen if Beijing gets to host the Games in a few years.

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