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Gabon's Olympic Delegation Draws Low Marks for Efficiency


The four athletes Gabon sent to this year's Olympic Games in Beijing were accompanied by a delegation reported to be comprised of over 60 officials. The athletes won no medals. Brent Latham reports from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar, some in Gabon have criticized the size and cost of the large delegation.

A newspaper in Gabon is reporting with derision that the country's Olympic delegation has broken several records, despite completing the Beijing games without winning a medal.

The four athletes representing the country did not make headlines in China, but the delegation is bringing attention to the small Central African nation for its sheer size.

The number of officials was disproportionate to the athletic representation, says a journalist in Gabon, Lionel Kwatsi.

"There were few athletes and lots of people in the delegation of Gabon," he said. "Unfortunately they did poorly during the competition, and even the president denounced that there were many people in the delegation and not many athletes. "

The Gabonese publication Le Messager says more than 60 government officials traveled to China with the athletes.

The exact size could not be confirmed the day after the games. No one answered phones at the Gabon Ministry of Sport or the Olympic committee offices. A representative of the national television station said no one was available to speak about the Olympic team because the sports department and management had not yet returned from Beijing.

The officials in the delegation have been accused of using the trip to shop and sightsee at public expense, Kwatsi says.

"I think most of the people think they went there only to do shopping," he said. "They have bought a lot of things and they went there only for shopping. That is why there were a lot of officials in the delegation."

Kwatsi says officials could potentially profit from buying consumer goods in China and reselling them in Gabon. He adds that Gabon's Olympic athletes suffered because funds that could have been spent on training were used to pay for the officials' trips. Gabon was represented in Beijing in track and field, judo, and taekwondo. While three of the athletes were eliminated in the first rounds of their respective competitions, sprinter Paulette Zang-Milama made it to the second round of the women's 100-meter competition, and managed a 33rd place finish overall.

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