Olympic Run

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20150518

Rumours swept the Olympic village when the seven Cameroon athletes vanished during the Olympics. Despite finding none of their personal possessions, officials from Cameroon suggested that they might have gone sightseeing. In this documentary Peter White tracks what really happened, having been alongside the group as they struggle to make new lives in this country.

His recordings start early in the disappearance, with the entire boxing team seeking support in South London as they planned their next move. They had criticised team managers, alleging that promised payments for equipment and competition expenses had not been made and they worried about the repercussions of their protest if they returned home as planned.

Now they are building lives in Sheffield and Sunderland and Peter follows their progress. Serge Ambomo was in a homeless hostel when Peter first meets him - the 26 year old had just had his first application for leave to remain in Britain turned down and his benefits suspended. He was living on handouts from an evangelical church and relying on the goodwill of a local boxing club run by Glyn Rhodes, who lets him train and tries to sort out his many problems.

Now Serge has been given a five year reprieve by the immigration services and a flat by Rotherham Council Not that he needs it: he spends most of his time with his girlfriend, Sharon, who is already a grandmother but who hopes to settle down with Serge. He is currently banned from boxing after his antics during a fight in which Jerome Wilson, was seriously injured - he kissed Wilson's head as his rival lay unconscious. He now plans to get his boxing career back on track by joining forces with an Olympic team mate training in the North East.

Peter speaks to the athletes and those who have been alongside them since 2012. He wonders about the price they have paid to stay here and how they have coped away from their families in Cameroon. The French speaking country is one of the poorest in the world, with the national economic output just over seven hundred pounds per person according to the International Monetary Fund. Peter finds the boxers resting their hopes for economic success on their performance in the ring and looks at how they have fared since the Games.

Serge tells him that life has been far more difficult here than he ever anticipated: "All I want is to fight, that is all I know how to do and yet there have been so many obstacles. I lost so much by staying here and it is hard to know what is going to happen to me now.".