Africa: The Curious Case of the Defectors - Athletes Who Seek Asylum During the Olympics


Athletes using the Olympics to defect from their countries of birth is fairly commonplace. Whereas in the past it was driven by political unrest and wars in the countries of the defectors, recently it is often motivated by the pursuit of living under better economic conditions.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Julius Ssekitoleko, a Ugandan national who had hoped to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before falling short of qualification, has become the latest in a long list of athletes who use the trip to the summer Games as an escape route from their countries.

Japanese police found the 20-year-old weightlifter after he went missing from his hotel room in Osaka on 16 July. Ssekitoleko travelled to Japan in mid-June, with the hopes of qualifying but ultimately fell short of qualification standards while in Japan and was due to return home this week. He reportedly left behind his luggage and a note saying that he wanted to stay and work in Japan as life in Uganda is hard.

"We are working with Japan's government to get the facts surrounding the weightlifter's disappearance and how he got accredited," Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs,...

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