The women’s chess team from Burundi in east Africa, which was entered in the Chess Olympiad now underway in Tromsø, failed to show up for scheduled matches late last week. By Sunday they had disappeared from their residence as well, along with two team leaders.
“Police have been informed, but no charges have been filed,” Morten Lillegård, spokesman for the Olympiad’s organizers, told state broadcaster NRK. Officials speculate that the women have left Tromsø, since the private home where they’d been staying was found empty of their belongings. It appeared they’d moved out.
“We think the players may have traveled to Oslo, but we don’t know,” Burundi’s team captain, one of those still in Tromsø, told NRK.
Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, and Olympiad officials noted that it’s not the first time members of sports teams from impoverished and troubled nations have “gone underground” after arriving in Europe for sports tournaments. “There were several people who suddenly vanished during the youth chess championships in Greece a few years ago and then turned up in Italy,” Morten Sand, assistant director of the Chess-OL in Tromsø told NRK. “We know that (the football tournament) Norway Cup has had similar problems.”
Sand said that all the women from Burundi arrived legally in Norway on so-called “Schengen visas” that allow them to travel freely in Europe for the extent of their validity. “All the women are also over the age of 20, so there’s nothing illegal about them leaving Tromsø,” he said. “It would have been nice to know where they are, though, so we can stop worrying about them.”