Tuesday, September 2, 2008
IOC still embarrassed over not having Cameroon anthem
F. Mbango Etone won Cameroon's only medal at the Beijing Olympics in the women's triple jump. Not only did Etone medal, but she won the gold medal. The track star was the only athlete to win a medal from the east African country of almost 20 million people.
Every gold medal winner not only stands at the top of the medal stand, but also enjoys the privledge of having their country's national anthem fill the stadium or arena.
One of the IOC's responsibilities is to obtain the national anthem of each participating country. There are numerous ways the IOC does this: calls the country and asks them to send a CD, the country sends an email with the anthem attached, or flies to the country to pick up the anthem in a box.
Cameroon claims they sent the email in August of 2007. "I did send the email, but I will admit there was no reply or confirmation," said Cameroon's Olympic adviser, Senja Eti.
The email did arrive but was followed by skepticism.
"Honestly, I didn't know that Cameroon was a country. I've heard of maroon the color and Camaro the car, but not Cameroon the country. I deleted the email right away thinking it was a prank," said IOC member Locke Schafer.
The deleting of this email would cause great embarrassment to the IOC on the day of the triple jump at the Beijing games. After the victory Etone took a step to the top of the stand and stood waiting for her county's song.
"We didn't know what to do. She's standing there waiting and we asked for the audience to please stand," said Schafer, who happened to be working the triple jump medal ceremony.
Scrambling to uncover the national anthem for Cameroon one IOC member decided to hum a random tune while Etone stood at the pinnacle of the podium. (Schafer admitted he was terrible at humming and declined to join in.)
"I heard a humming come over the speakers and it was not the Cameroon anthem," said a visibly upset Etone. "But winning the gold medal made it one the sweetest melodies I've ever heard."
Some fans were overcome with emotion as tears filled many eyes. "It's such a beautiful anthem. I've never heard humming like that before," said Sarah Timmons, of Melbourne, Australia.