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Vanuatu’s Participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Vanuatu is sending a delegation of three athletes to the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, where they will compete in Judo, Table Tennis, and Rowing. The nation has sent a delegation to every Olympics since its debut at the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, where athletes competed in athletics and boxing events. Since then, the majority of athletes sent by Vanuatu to compete in the Olympics have largely competed in athletics events, although a growing number of athletes from Vanuatu are competing in numerous events.


The Vanuatu Amateur Sports Association and National Olympic Committee (VASANOC) has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1987. Since then, VASANOC has been instrumental in building the presence of sporting events on the island.
Vanuatu has gone on to host the Mini Pacific Games twice since its recognition by the IOC, once in 1993 and more recently in 2017.

Since Vanuatu’s Olympic debut in 1988, it has gone on to field 34 participants in a total of 6 sports. 16 of these athletes have competed in Athletics events, with Mary Kapalu being the first athlete from Vanuatu to compete at three Olympic Games after competing in Athletics in 1992, 1996, and 2000. Since the 2000 Paralympic games in Sydney, Vanuatu has sent three athletes to compete in the Paralympics, competing in Javelin events in 2000 and Men’s Powerlifting in 2008. Due to concerns regarding COVID restrictions, Vanuatu will not be sending any athletes to compete in this year’s Paralympic games.

For this year’s Olympics, Vanuatu will be represented by Rillio Rii in Men’s Single Sculls in Rowing, Yoshua Shing in Men’s Singles Table Tennis, and Hugo Cumbo who will be competing in the 81 kilogram category for Judo.

For the 2020 opening ceremony, Rillio Rii was selected to be Vanuatu’s flag bearer after impressive performances at the 2015, 2018 and 2019 World Rowing Championships, making him the first rower to be the Olympic flag bearer for Vanuatu. In a press release, VASANOC said “Indeed, in view of his sporting performances, Rii was chosen to carry the colors of Vanuatu during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. He will be the first rower to do this”.

His appearance at the opening ceremony drew attention from news outlets and social media users across the globe, wearing traditional brightly coloured Ni-Vanuatu clothing. His appearance was compared to Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan Taekwondo athlete who went viral in 2016 after appearing in the Olympics opening ceremony in traditional Tongan clothing. Rii similarly went viral for his appearance, with the official Olympics Twitter account highlighting his impressive presence at the opening ceremony.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Pita, we see you and we raise you 🕶<a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#VAN</a&gt; |<a
href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#OpeningCeremony</a&gt; <a href=”″></a&gt; <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Olympics
(@Olympics) <a href=””>July 23, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”; charset=”utf-8″></script><blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>*Tonga goes viral at <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Olympics</a>*<br><br>Vanuatu: &quot;hold my flag…&quot; <a
href=””></a></p>&mdash; Mr Adam R (@MrAdamR) <a href=””>July 23, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”; charset=”utf-8″></script>

With sports continuing to be developed to a high standard in Vanuatu thanks to the ongoing work of VASANOC, we can certainly look forward to seeing a high caliber of athletes representing Vanuatu at future Olympic and Paralympic games.

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