The National, Friday July 27th, 2012
THE world’s greatest sporting extravaganza opens tomorrow morning and we, Papua New Guinea, will proudly take our place among the 205 nations at the London Olympics.
Just to be there is an achievement worth shouting about.
For every athlete who makes it there, tens of thousands around the world fail to qualify.
That is why we must take pride and congratulate the eight competitors who make up Team PNG.
We thank them for the endless hours of training, the sacrifices they have made, for the agonies they have endured to get to where they are today.
By being there they make us, as a nation, enormously proud that PNG will stand shoulder to shoulder
with the best in the universe.
Theresa Tona, Toea Wisil, Nelson Stone, Raymond Ovinou, Judith Meauri, Diko Toua, Steven Kari and Ryan Pini – we salute each and everyone of you.
When Wisil carries the red, black and yellow national standard with the bird of paradise on it into the opening ceremony at 6am tomorrow, she
and the team of athletes and officialswill be representing each and every one of us.
Team PNG’s stunningly vibrant uniforms are sure to turn heads and those
few moments of exposure on television screens around the world will be priceless.
Each time Tona, Wisil, Stone, Ovinou, Meauri, Kari, Theresa Tona and Pini take their places in their respective disciplines, it is the country that will benefit.
It does not matter what village, district or
province they come from for they are representing the Land of the Unexpected.
This will be our ninth appearance since our first in 1976 in Montreal, Canada, and we have already made our mark. Toua is in her fourth appearance but has the distinction of being the first woman in the world to lift weights at an Olympics when she did in Sydney 2000, where the sport for women was introduced to the Games.It may have been a fortuitous luck of the draw but it firmly placed PNG in Olympic history.
Swimmer Ryan Pini, our most successful Olympian, is making his third appearance.
Four years ago in Beijing, China, he became the first athlete from a Pacific Games country to reach a final.Pini achieved that in the 100m butterfly, the event in which he won gold at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.Winning a medal is the ultimate but winning is not everything as some would like to believe.
British sprinter Linford Christie once said: “Those who say winning gold is everything havenever won a silver.”We say just competing in the Olympics is
an achievement to be proud of. If every member of Team PNG does better
than they have before they went to London we can rejoice.
In the fullness of time, the medals will.
Sport is one of the greatest unifiers in the
world; it brings peoples together in way that few things can.
The London Games come at an opportune time. We are in the
process of national reconciliation after a generalelectionthat came in the wake of months of bitter political bickering.
If we can use the patriotism that cheering for Team PNG will generate, it can give greater momentum to that reconciliation processto what we all want – one heart, one country, one people.
In all the hype about the Olympics, let us pay homage as well to Francis Kompoan and Timothy Harape, who will be Team
PNG at the Paralympics that follow the Olympics and where 147 nations take part.
Kompoan will compete in the 100m and Harape in weightlifting.
They will show that all people in PNG have the ability to be high achievers.
Their presence will pave the way for greater integration of people who are looked at askance for a quirk of fate that does not change the fact they too are human beings.
So let us rejoice in them all competing on the greatest stage in the world.