These participants in the Olympic Games who took the path of exile

2021, the breakaway of the Belarusian sprinter

On August 4, by setting foot on Polish soil, Kristina Timanovskaya was able to breathe. The 24-year-old Belarusian sprinter narrowly escaped the will of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime to silence any dissenting voice in Belarus. His fault? To have publicly protested against the Athletics Federation of her country, which wanted to make her compete in a test for which she was not prepared. Taken against her will to Tokyo airport on 1er August to take a flight to Belarus, she finally came out under Japanese police escort. Before being confined the next day in the Polish embassy. Warsaw granted her and her husband a humanitarian visa.

2012, the fists of no return of the Cameroonian boxer

Thomas Essomba in training in Sheffield, Great Britain on August 4, 2021.

Thomas Essomba had to do it twice to go into exile. First attempt at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. At the end of the competition, the Cameroonian boxer decides to stay in China, hoping to find better living conditions there, but he ends up returning to his country. He was again selected to participate in the London Olympics in 2012. There, he hid like seven other members of his delegation so as not to return to Cameroon. Questioned shortly after by the BBC, the athlete, 24 years old at the time, had confided his desire to find better training conditions across the Channel. He has since resided in the United Kingdom which granted him asylum, then British nationality.

1996 Iraqi weightlifter weight support

Athlete Raed Ahamed carrying the Iraq flag during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA, July 19, 1996.

Raed Ahmed, then 29, saw the Atlanta Games as an opportunity to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime. A member of the Shiite minority in his country, the weightlifter cited the public executions he had witnessed as the reason for his exile. He also said that the look of Bill Clinton applauding the Iraqi delegation, of which he was the flag-bearer, during the opening ceremony reinforced his will to defect. He relied on the presence of Iraqi dissidents in the United States to flee the Olympic village after dark.

1956, the great leap of the Magyar gymnast

Agnes Keleti, at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

It was in Australia, during the opening ceremony of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, that Agnes Keleti, the gymnast with ten Olympic medals, learned of the arrest by the KGB of the Hungarian head of government, Imre Nagy, in Budapest. The USSR was crushing the Hungarian revolution in blood. After the Games, marked by a fierce water polo match won by the Hungarians against the Soviets, the champion, like more than half of the Magyar delegation, refused to return to Budapest. Agnes Keleti joined Israel to coach for the Olympic team, before returning to Budapest where she celebrated her 100th birthday this year.

1948, the parade of the Czechoslovakian coach

Marie Provazníková (at an undetermined date).

In Czechoslovakia, “There is no freedom of speech, of the press or of assembly”. Six months after the Communists took power in February 1948, this is how Marie Provazníková, coach of the Czechoslovak Olympic gymnastics team, justifies her refusal to return from the London Olympics. After a few months in England, the Holocaust survivor will eventually settle in the United States, where she will become a leading figure in the Sokol movement, born in the 19th century.e century, which intended to assert the Czech national identity through gymnastics. She died in New York in 1991, at the age of 100.