Tokyo 2021: Pacific athletes ready to go

Let the Games Begin! Once again we will get to hear this iconic line as the Summer Olympic Games sets up for another momentous opening ceremony in Tokyo tonight. Despite the long delays and seeds of doubt conjured by the current global coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and host country Japan have sought to finally proceed with the games, which were initially scheduled for 2020 and Oceania is well represented.

Although athletes are still at risk of contracting COVID-19, the organisers remain positive that through strict safety regulations and with the recent rollout of vaccines, they can provide for a safe environment for the athletes and everyone who will be present in Tokyo for the games; including team management, media representatives, the limited spectators, volunteers and all people who will be working behind the scenes.

Acting Association of National Olympic Committees President, Fiji’s  Dr Robin Mitchell, says:  “After years of dedication, perseverance and patience, athletes from the world’s NOCs and the Refugee Olympic Team will march together in solidarity at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. This special ceremony will mark the beginning of two weeks of Games, which will transcend sport and celebrate the very best of humanity.

“We owe so much to our Japanese hosts and the IOC for ensuring the Games can go  ahead in  a  safe and secure  manner.  Hosting  this  global  event  is  always  a  major  undertaking  and  to  have  delivered  it  to  these standards during the pandemic is a remarkable achievement. Of course, there remains work to be done and all of us have a role toplay in keeping the people of Japan and the Games participants safe. This is the unifying power of the Games. It brings the world together through shared Olympic values and reminds us all that we are stronger together during difficult times.”

This has been and continues to be, one of hardest games ever organised, especially in terms of making sure that athletes remain COVID-19 free and safe all throughout the 17 days. There will be very limited access for spectators to attend the games.

But across the Pacific, people will be watching their representatives compete. The Pacific region is well represented by 87 athletes from the South Pacific Islands; Fiji (30), PNG (8), Samoa (8), American Samoa (6), Tonga (6), Cook Islands (6), Guam (5), Vanuatu (3), Solomon Islands (3), Kiribati (3), Palau (3), Tuvalu (2), Marshall Islands (2) and Nauru (2).

Our neighbours as usual have much larger contingents, with Australia taking 478 athletes and and New Zealand 223. The “Warriors of Oceania” as the Oceania Olympic Committee has dubbed them, are competing in 46 sports, including archery, athletics, basketball, tennis, surfing, to name a few and right down to weightlifting.  They also include of course, defending gold medallists, the Fiji Sevens team and  PNG’s Dika Toua whose competition starts tomorrow at this,  her fourth Olympics .

So in unison with this year’s games motto “United by Emotion”, we join the Pacific community to band together express our well wishes and blessings to all the athletes from around the world who will be taking part in this year’s Olympic Games. More importantly to our Pacific athletes, our warriors of Oceania, who will be flying our Pacific hopes and dreams in their respective sports and events, we wish them all the very best.