Polish Authorities Deny Liberian Team Participation At Quiz Olympiad

High level quizzers around the world were left in dismay as despite all efforts, once more, no African country could be present at the International Quizzing Olympiad. This circumstances was due to the Polish Embassy position, communicated in writing to the Liberian Embassy that the Liberia National Quizzing Team did not meet the “category of persons” allowed entry in their country. This was after team members had physically travelled to Abuja, Nigeria from Monrovia and Northern Cyprus for visa interview that was not granted, though they had been requested to go to Abuja, Nigeria by both the Polish Embassy and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Embassy claimed that their decision was made due to the Covid pandemic, yet it is worth noting that in October 2021 when the Liberians were told to go for the interview in Nigeria, Covid had already been known. Moreover, the guidelines of the Polish Border Guard which was cited in the letter made specific mention of persons going for competitions being organized or staged in Poland by bodies which are locally or internationally accredited. Additionally, up till the time of writing this, the Polish caseload of over 3 million is similar to the Liberian population of 3.8 million reported in the last census (2008) while Liberia’s total caseload of under 6000 persons since Covid-19 began falls below half of the new infections reported in Poland just on the day alone that the letter was transmitted.  Meanwhile of all the scheduled for the Olympiad, Liberia had the lowest figures for total infections, new infections and deaths from Covid. In fact the nation closest to Liberia’s figures  (Ireland) had 80 times more cases- almost 500 000.

Prior to the travel of other team members, the team Captain and head of the IQA in Liberia, Atty. Phil Tarpeh Dixon traveled from Liberia to Abuja at the expense of TICF on October 7, 2021. The absence of a Polish mission in Liberia means that its Embassy in Nigeria handles affairs involving Liberia. He carried service passports issued by the government of Liberia to members of the national quizzing team, confirming their roles as quizzers and a Note Verbalé, a diplomatic instrument requesting a service by one country, in this case the issuance of visas of another. He was informed by his nation’s Embassy that the Poles are somewhere between meticulous and difficult and therefore diligently filled in application forms, in some cases requesting additional documentation from team members to bolster their application. For the two team members studying in Northern Cyprus, this meant proof of academic status from their vincinity. For one team member under 18 years of age, that meant getting notarized permission from the parents for the travel of their child as a part of the team.

At the submission of the Note Verbalé and applications by the Liberian Embassy, the Poles replied in writing requesting to see the applicants, before reviewing their application. The Liberian Embassy then interjected that the head of delegation was already in Nigeria and he was available to be interviewed at the time and the other team members would follow later. At the schedule visit to the Polish Embassy, there was no citizen of Poland or senior staff of its consulate making inquiries as befits the civilized dialogues of one nation to another. A local staff simply asked how long was the expected trip to Poland and whether there was visa fee available for payment. To the first question, the answer given was “less than two weeks,” while to the second, the answer was “No. I have a service passport.” A slip was given requesting pickup of the Passport on  November  5.

Since the question of Covid risk cannot be justifiably cited for the Poles’ decision, quizzers being persons who think of right answers to questions have begun to look over the possibilities. One is that the Consular staff were careless and neglected to review the documents because they felt it was not important enough, for whatever reason. Indeed, staff at the Liberian Embassy were told by their Polish counterparts that “the Quiz Olympiad” is not real. A simple Google search would have given information about the Olympiad. The Hotel hosting the event could have been called. The applicant name could have been placed in the search bar to authenticate their links to the activity. Their application could be read and supporting document leafed through to reveal previous receipt of both Schegen and UK Visas.

When seven out of the 10 best performers of a continent are from your country and the Google search result for “Best Quizzer in Africa” is your team Captain, and your country has the lowest caseload of all participating nations, persons are indeed justified in speculating as to what might be the actual reasons the team was deemed not part of the “category of persons” to compete at its Olympiad.

COUNTING THE COST

Before going forward, let it be said that the International Quizzing Association affiliate in Liberia and Liberian quizzers generally appreciate an unsuccessful effort at attending the Olympiad, in comparison to no attempt at all. While they were not the ultimate outcomes anticipated, these can be mentioned as successes:   1) acquisition of privileged passports for seven Liberian quizzers with quizzing mentioned in their profession; 2) the first international trips with quizzing as the purpose, ever conducted by Liberians; 3) the first visit by an quizzing personality to Liberia for the purpose of quizzing

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