Statistically, the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) are about 8 percent of the total 206 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and call the planet’s largest ocean, the Pacific, home.
Historically descended from waves of indigenous seafaring wayfinders and recent European contact, settlement and integration, the peoples of the Oceania Continent of the Olympic Movement have barely emerged as sovereign nations after varying periods of colonisation while some remain in various degrees of relationships according to benefits.
IOC President Samaranch brings change
The sweeping changes that Marquis Juan Antonio Samaranch ushered in as part of his Presidency of the IOC from 1980 onward could not have been met with a finer Oceanic confluence of currents as with the founders of ONOC. Samaranch’s vision was met with the generosity and graciousness of the Australian Olympic Committee (recognised 1895) and the New Zealand Olympic Committee (recognised 1919). This was met with an enthusiastic and equally visionary group of Pacific islanders whose commitment to, and love of, sport led to the creation and growth of ONOC.
The Baden-Baden meeting
The seed that led to the formation of ONOC was sowed on 21 September 1981 in Baden-Baden, West Germany with a meeting of representatives from Australia (3 members), Fiji (2), NZ (3) and Papua New Guinea (2). The Provisional office bearers forming a Steering Committee were Mr Harold Austad (President, NZ), Mr Brian Wightman (Vice President, Fiji), Sir Julius Patching (Secretary General, Australia) and Mr Graeme Norris (Executive Member, PNG). This group was responsible for ONOC’s first Constitution, first discussions and negotiating of funding, and for the inaugural meeting of ONOC held in Melbourne, Australia on 23 February 1982.
The initial Baden-Baden Oceania Group is commemorated here.
IOC Silver Order, 1976
Life Member NZOCGA, 1966
President, NZOCGA, 1952 - 1966
Athlete Representative NZOCGA, 1928
Vice President Oceania for the CGF – 1970 – 1974
“In what other field of human endeavour would you find so many nations gathered for the same purpose and so many thousands of intensely involved spectators and so many more widely spread millions avidly gleaning every scrap of news”.
Such was the understanding and insight of Sport that ONOC Founding President, Harold Austad MBE, CBE held. He served on the New Zealand Olympic Committee for 52 years and became famous for his ability to handle and chair large meetings and took his remarkable skills and abilities with him in the twilight of his years to establish the ONOC during 1981 and served the first term of office until his sight gave way during 1984.
Coming into sports administration with polished skills in Commerce and Accounting meant that he was a pioneer of promoting the development of sport as an industry and taking a commercial approach to its development and operations. He was also an avid believer in the value of sport as a tool for development in general and the need to include sport in school programmes as part of the overall ‘rounding’ required in the education of young people.
Austad passed away during January 1995 and to the very end, kept council with prominent sports administrators such as Tay Wilson and Sir Lance Cross, ever interested in the developments of the ONOC and the spread of Olympism throughout the Pacific Region.
Harold Iver Austad has as his legacy, the establishment of the ONOC and his hopes for the ONOC are probably best summed up in his own words:
“One of the secrets of success in life is to be able to meet people, to mix with them and to interest yourself in their affairs. You do kind and generous things for others, even in circumstances where you are not seeking support.”
Founding Secretary General ONOC, 1981-1989
ONOC President, 1982
Former Secretary General AOC, 1973-1985
ANOC Oceania Member, 1980-1989
Having been to 12 Olympics Games in his sports administrative career, Sir Julius ‘Judy’ Patching was a major trailblazer for the Olympic Movement for Australia and throughout the Pacific. His first Olympic Games was in 1956 in Melbourne where he was a starter for the athletics competition and his last was at the Sydney 2000 where he was the Assistant Games Village Mayor. He was the first Secretary General of ONOC in 1981 and held the position until 1989.
ONOC started with four NOCs and by the time Patching retired the number had increased to eleven. This was an enormous achievement for him. He is described as a man with unflagging loyalty to his friends and country. This loyalty extended into Oceania when he took up his post as Secretary General.
Amongst his major achievement was getting more funds from Solidarity compared to other continents. Patching was instrumental in getting American Samoa and Guam into the Zone leading to recognition by the IOC.
Patching as the founding Secretary General for ONOC operated out of the Australian National Olympic Committee from 1981 until 1989 when New Zealand’s Tay Wilson assumed the post.
Patching operated at a time when most of the region had not been exposed to the concept of competitive sports and to address this demanded a lot of traveling time and innovative training and working methods to get countries into the Zone. Convincing the IOC of the great traveling and working logistics in Oceania was one of the Patching early appointments with the IOC and in partnership with his Committee, he managed soliciting a substantial amount through Olympic Solidarity.
To begin with, $US350, 000 were allocated to Oceania to manage within the 1981-1984 Olympiad Period. Julius Lockington Patching was the right man at the right time for the establishment of ONOC and his specific achievements were recognised in 2005 when he was given an ONOC Award of Merit for his services to the development of sport and the Olympic Movement throughout Oceania.
8th IOC member appointed to NZ - 1969-1987
45th Member of the Executive Board 1978-1982
1st Chairman – Radio & TV Commission 1985-1987
Also a member of Eligibility, Information and Cultural, Press, Olympic Movement,
Joint Mass Media, and Olympic Solidarity Commissions at various times from 1971-1987
Honorary IOC Member 1988
ONOC 1981, ONOC President 1981
ANOC Vice-President 1981-1989
Australia’s financial contribution during the early days of ONOC is unchallenged, but New Zealand’s contribution on the other hand was largely through Sir Lance Cross who was perhaps the most influential sports figure in the region then. A thorough apprenticeship in New Zealand and regional sport, together with almost twenty years of experience in the IOC, meant Sir Lance was ready when ONOC was formed in 1981.
He worked closely with the founding President of ONOC, his fellow New Zealander Harold Austad, before taking over from the latter upon his retirement in 1982. Cross held office until his death in 1989.
His diverse sporting career saw him go from basketball administrator and national coach to a seat on the most powerful body in world sport, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee.
By 1981, Sir Lance was the longest serving IOC member in Oceania, having been nominated into the IOC in 1969 and assuming IOC executive role in 1979. In the words of the late Brian Wightman, “Lance was prepared to deal with the Pacific. In the early 1930s, he taught physical education in Fiji, where his pupils included the future Governor- General and the Deputy Prime Minister.
During service in the Second World War in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, one of his tasks was to organise sport and recreation for off duty Servicemen. Sir Lance had to use a lot of improvisations to construct sports facilities then. He organised matches between Americans, New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders, which were possibly the first in the region. This meant he had first-hand knowledge of the area and its problems with regard to sport.
Sir Lance was an avid supporter of the region, a regular attendance of the South Pacific Games, Solidarity administration courses and a keen backer of the Oceania Olympic Academy. He went out of his way to ensure balanced development in the region. From the beginning, Sir Lance skilfully steered ONOC through and by the time he died in 1989, the number of NOCs in Oceania had tripled.
In the IOC, he became involved in protracted negotiations on television rights, which has greatly funded the Olympic Movement to date. Cross in 1980 was an early candidate for the IOC presidency but withdrew his bid and supported the eventual winner, Juan Antonio Samaranch. Cross was knighted for his services to sport (inducted 1990).
ONOC vice-president, 1981-1989
Secretary, Tonga NOC, 1986
ONOC Zone Development Officer, 1990-1996
President of FASANOC, 1987
Executive of Fiji Rugby Union, 1980-1987
Olympic Order in Silver, 1985 (first for an islander in Oceania)
Commonwealth Games Federation Regional Vice-President for Oceania, 1982-1994
A famous rugby international in England and British Columbia, Canada in the 1960s, Brian Wightman became a leading sports administrator, sportsman, teacher and education officer in Oceania when he went to Fiji in 1970.
Known as the gentle giant, Brian originally came over to Fiji to work in the education department. His prowess on the rugby field meant rugby made use of his expertise early on. He went on to serve Fiji and other countries at the national level in rugby, athletics, physical education and sports administration.
Wightman was vice-president of the Oceania National Olympic Committees from 1981 to 1989 and of the Commonwealth Games Federation from 1982 to 1994.
He was awarded the Olympic Order in Silver in 1987, a first for an islander of Oceania.
His tireless and passionate approach to sports development in the region was perhaps the core ideals of his service to Fiji and the region. He worked closely with the longest serving IOC member in the region and then president of ONOC Sir Lance Cross and Julius Patching during the 1980s to set-up what ONOC is today. As the first Zone Development Officer, he had a hectic traveling schedule between all NOCs from 1990 - 1996. This role saw him on the road and often away from home for six months every year.
Those who began their sports administrative career in Fiji and the region under Brian’s wings during the mid-1970s often attest to his motivation and passion for sports on a level that exceeded even local sports people.
Brian played key roles in all South Pacific Games in the region from 1979 to the mid-1990s. His biggest role was the education of sports administrators in the region and helping set up their respective NOCs for IOC Recognition. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Fiji Rugby Union for several years and was Manager of the Fiji Rugby Team against Ireland in 1976. He was also the first Manager and Coach of the Fiji’s Rugby Sevens Team to win the Hong Kong Sevens in 1977, General Manager of the Fiji Team for the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in Canada in 1978, Manager of the Fiji team for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984.
It was at the insistence of Brian Wightman, that current ONOC President and now IOC Executive, Dr Robin Mitchell tried his hand in sports administration by joining FASANOC in 1985. Mitchell has never looked back since. Brian passed away in Auckland, NZ in 1999.
Vice-President and life member of the Papua New Guinea Athletics Association and General Manager of the 1st Papua New Guinea Commonwealth Games team, 1962
Inaugural Chairman of the Australian Institute of Sport, 1980-1985)
President of the Australian Olympic Federation, 1985 - 1990
Inaugural Member of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) Executive Board 1981
President of ONOC, 1989 - 2009
Vice-President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Council, 1989
Vice-President of the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games Sydney, 2000 (1993 - 2000)
Chairman of Olympic Games Knowledge Services (OGKS), 2002-2004
Chairman of the Oceania Australia Foundation (OAF)
Member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics commission, 2013
President of the Organisation of sports Federations of Oceania (OSFO) (2014-)
Member of the International Association Football Federation (FIFA) Independent Reform Committee 2015
IOC Member, 1977 - 2013, Honorary Member since 2013
Member of the IOC Executive Board, 1986 -1990, 1995-1999
IOC Vice-President, 1990 - 1994, 1999 - 2003
Vice-Chairman (1988) then Chairman of the Press Commission, 1989-2014
Vice-Chairman of the Olympic Solidarity Commission, 2002 - 2011
Vice-Chairman of the Coordination Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad Beijing, 2008 2002 -2008
Member of the following Commissions: Olympic Solidarity (1981-1984 then 2015-2017), Programme (1984-1987), Preparation of the XII Olympic Congress – Congress of Unity (1990-1994), Apartheid and Olympism (1989-1992), Centennial Olympic Congress – Congress of Unity, Study (1994-1996), Working Group on Media Coordination (1989-1990), Ethics (1999-2000), “IOC 2000” (Executive Committee, 1999), IOC 2000 Reform Follow-up (2002); Advisor to the Olympic Solidarity Commission (2011); Member of the Press Committee Working Group (2015)
Kevan Gosper has one of the most illustrious sports administration careers in Oceania, however, prior to that, he was one of Oceania’s finest athletes representing Australia at two Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games. He was Australian track and field national record holder in 400m (1955 - 1971), gold medalist in 400m at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954, silver medalist in 4x400 m relay at the Games of the XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956 and Captain of Australian track and field team at the Games of the XVII Olympiad Rome 1960.
Leaving athletics, Gosper moved to Papua New Guinea to lead the fuel company, Shell, in 1961. A year later, he was responsible for putting together the Papua New Guinea team to the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth earning his place in PNG sporting history. Gosper’s entry into sport in Oceania and in Australia was through his PNG legacy.
Gosper was a founding member of ONOC in 1981 and became President in 1989, a position he held until 2009. He is credited for the strategic push in having ONOC base its secretariat in a Pacific island country, a true mark of regionalism.
Following decades of committed and exemplary representation and leadership he was created an Officer of the Order of Australia for ‘service to sport and sports administration’ in 1986. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of fame in 1989.
Designed ONOC Emblem (Logo), 1983
IOC Member in Australia, 1982
AOC Executive, 1973
AOC Life Member, 1994
Australia Sporting Hall of Fame, 1993
Olympian – Canoeing, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972 (Manager/ Coach), 1976 (Manager), 1980 (Chef de Mission)
Established ONOC Olympic Academy (Convening all Olympic Nations of Pacific), 1987
President of the Oceania Region World Taekwondo Federation, 2005
As a three-time Olympian and Australian team official to three Olympic Games, Phil Coles brought on board a great deal of depth and experience during the formation of ONOC in the early years.
His earliest highlights with ONOC was in the formation of ONOC itself. To be part of this region of the world and to see it develop to its present stage has been most rewarding for Coles.
In 1987 – Coles also accompanied IOC President Samaranch on his ‘whistle stop’ tour of the Pacific which proved a standout experience. President Samaranch visited every existing NOC in the Pacific at that time - not without some interesting hiccups, - such as flying through a cyclone and landing in Samoa in a monsoonal downpour or having two Sundays and attending two church services either side of the International date line.
The recent admission of new NOCs to the ONOC family has been greeted with enthusiasm and is obviously a highlight of expansion and development.