The National, Thursday July 26th, 2012
TEAM PNG Chef de Mission Syd Yates is in a calm and bouyant mood a day out from the London Olympics opening ceremony.
In a little over 24 hours London’s Olympic Stadium will be engulfed in a four-hour long opening extravaganza to mark the event’s 120th edition.
But listening to Yates, who spoke in glowing terms of the host city’s facilities, weather and food, you would think everything in the British capital was wired for Papua New Guinea’s benefit.
“Everything is fine. It was cooler last week but since most of the team arrived on Monday the weather has been very good,” Yates, who is at his second Olympics after travelling as an official to the Beijing Games in 2008, said.
“We’re getting sunny conditions in the British summer here with temperatures up around 29 deg during the day but cooling down to 15 deg at night.
“Our athletes are training well at the facilities here at the Games Village and all in all it’s very impressive.”
Yates said the with the arrival of taekwondo exponent Theresa Tona and coach Andy Rutten on Tuesday from a competition in Germany the contingent was only waiting on weightlifters Dika Toua and Steven Kari who were to arrive yesterday from the Oceania Weightlifting Federation facility in New Caledonia.
He added that while the general atmoshere was expectant the PNG team was soaking in the experience with all eight athletes training without any problems.
“We’re progressing well with training and preparations and with the village filling up the excitement is building.”
The Kina Finance CEO said Raymond Ovinou will be the first PNG athlete to compete with the Gulf man taking to the judo mat in the 66kg division on Saturday at 11pm (PNG time).
“Raymond will be our first athlete to compete and he’s in a division that has over 60 fighters competing in an elimination format so we wish him well.”
Ovinou arrived last month in England to begin his preparations and according to Yates is confident of holding his own against the world’s best.
Thirty minutes later Toua will line up for her fourth tilt in the women’s 53kg class.
For the 28-year-old Hanuabada lass, who has represented PNG at the last three Olympics, making London was an achievement in itself after coming off a two year lay-off and becoming a mother.
“Dika has put in a lot of effort over the past 12 months and making the team for her fourth Olympics is a great achievement itself, especially after being out for two years (2009- 2010) and starting a family,” Yates said.