Four Pacific island delegations to the TOKYO 2020 Olympic Games would have missed out on participation if not for a collaborative effort between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Nauru National Olympic Committee (NNOC), and Nauru Airlines ensuring passage to Tokyo.
Dr Robin Mitchell (FIJ), the President of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) said, ‘Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu representatives of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) relied on an IOC sanctioned Nauru Airlines flight from Nauru to Tokyo Narita with a technical stop in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia in order to get to the Games.’
He added that while it was coordinated by ONOC, ‘the ambitious project was successful given reliance on existing relationships and on the networks that have been built over years.’
Several layers had to be negotiated to ensure the four countries reached Tokyo in time to complete quarantine and COVID-19 protocol measures by opening day on 23 July and then participation at the reformatted Olympic Games which for the first time in its history, does not have tourists nor local spectators and will rely on global broadcasting for audiences.
Dr Mitchell said that, ‘The preparation for this ambitious project was short, but the need to ensure that our contingents had a possibility to travel to Tokyo in the light of recently cancelled commercial flights to Tokyo via two to three countries, served as an extra initiative that led us to seek the assistance of our NOC colleagues in Nauru, to explore the possibility of a charter flight by Nauru Airlines to transport athletes from four NOCs to Tokyo.’
‘In our small Island communities, sport has a good network of contacts and unsurprisingly an Executive member of the Nauru NOC Dr Kieran Keke was also Chairman of Nauru Airlines. A plan of action was initiated, the Airline administrators engaged and within a short period of time a flight plan was prepared and costed, payment effected by ONOC and the final details and approvals in train for a Charter flight to bring athletes and officials from the three NOCs to Nauru on the 19th July and departure for Tokyo on the 20th.’
He said there were approvals from three Governments to allow athletes and officials to travel to Tokyo ‘with the background of concern that their Olympic teams may possibly bring the virus with them on their return home. Three of the countries on the charter have had no cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak in 2020.’
The final hurdle was the approval to travel to Tokyo Haneda from the Japanese authorities and the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity and NOC Relations Department stepped in to assist. This permitted the passage of four Pacific island countries to Tokyo.
Dr Mitchell extended his gratitude to the IOC President Mr Thomas Bach, President of the NNOC Hon. Marcus Stephen, and NNOC Executive Board Member and Chair of Nauru Airlines Dr Kieren Keke for the success of the ambitious project.
He said, ‘this project which will allow the athletes and officials from Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati to travel directly from their countries via Nauru to Tokyo, be tested for COVID-19 daily until their departure back home via Nauru. Hopefully this process will be of comfort and security for their Government and their families when they return home.’
For extra information:
On Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC)
On Kiribati National Olympic Committee (KNOC)
On Nauru National Olympic Committee (NNOC)
On National Olympic Committee of the Solomon Islands (NOCSI)
On Tuvalu Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (TASNOC)
Established in 1981, the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) is one of five Continental Associations. It looks after the interests of 17 member nations in the Oceania Region, including Australia and New Zealand as well as seven associate members.
ONOC has an office in Guam where Secretary General Mr. Ricardo Blas is based and the Secretariat in Suva, Fiji, where the Office of the President Dr Robin Mitchell is located.
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