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04 May 2015

IOC President visits Vanuatu - sees sporting “inspiration” in the wake of devastation left by Cyclone Pam

IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in Vanuatu Sunday, just six weeks after the island nation was hit by the devastating storm. The trip, which was planned before the winds battered the country, was an opportunity to discuss with the local sporting movement how the IOC funding will be spent to rejuvenate the sporting facilities.

The IOC is coordinating a plan, with the support of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), to rebuild sports facilities and the headquarters of the NOC in Vanuatu.

The USD 500,000 fund will also be used to help Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, also affected by the disaster.

President Bach visited a hockey and multisport centre badly damaged by the storm, which welcomes more than 1,000 young people a day, training young athletes as well as organising leagues and competitions.

The sports centre has facilities for hockey, basketball, football, futsal, table tennis, boxing, volleyball, netball and cricket.

He also saw the devastation at a sports hall used for basketball, tennis and badminton, where huge panels had been ripped off by the high winds.

“We hope that our contribution will give hope to the whole population. When a nation’s athletes thrive it has a positive effect on the whole community, and when young people get a chance to play sport it can bring a whole community together,” he said.

Later, the President and Director General of the IOC played tennis with local children at a training centre in the capital, Port Vila.

The President also visited Vanuatu rowing club, set up with help from Olympic Solidarity, the Australian and New Zealand rowing federations and the International Rowing Federation (FISA), which provides top level training for young promising athletes.

At a reception at the centre, the IOC President told the audience: “Vanuatu is starting to rebuild, and we are here to take part in this process by helping to rebuild the nation’s sporting infrastructure. We want to support the athletes in this region so that they can return to their sporting life as soon as possible, and prepare for their next sporting challenges.”

Read the full speech here

The Prime Minister Joe Natuman thanked the IOC for its help. “Despite the devastation, sport remains vital to Vanuatu. We will try to support sport in whatever way we can and to respect the independence of sport.”

The IOC President also held a meeting with the President of Vanuatu, Father Baldwin Lonsdale, in which ONOC President and IOC Member Robin Mitchell was awarded the Order of Vanuatu for his services to sport in the country.

In a meeting with the Prime Minister, the two discussed the IOC's help in rebuilding sporting infrastructure in Vanuatu and the role of sport in society, as well as the importance of including sport in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Later, President Bach was welcomed to the headquarters of the National Olympic Committee (VASANOC) by the NOC President, Antoine Boudier, and opened a small museum dedicated to sport and athletes from Vanuatu. At the opening he said: “We came to Vanuatu to encourage you, we are leaving inspired by you. We are inspired by the optimism and by your true Olympic spirit by never giving up. We are happy to contribute to rebuilding your country and, through sport, give hope to people and particularly youth in Vanuatu.”


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