Tonga’s flag bearer to take care of tsunami aid instead of the Olympics


Look at his little gloves.
Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It is my great displeasure to report that this year’s Olympics will NOT include the appearance of a familiar and beloved set of oiled-up abs, nor the pair of shiny pecs that have become synonymous with the ceremony. ‘opening. Pita Taufatofua, best remembered as a beautifully lubricated flag bearer for the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, is withdrawing from the 2022 Winter Games to focus on disaster response after a volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated his country of origin this month. It’s a very good reason to miss particularly failed Olympics, so we don’t blame him.

“My focus right now is to make sure we can help rebuild Tonga and then my energies will go back to the Olympics,” Taufatofua told “Once I started seeing the pictures of all the waves coming in, I sat there and thought, This will be catastrophic for our island. We’re gonna need help.”

The first part of a double disaster struck on January 15, when the offshore Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted with staggering force, throwing ash 100,000 feet into the air and blanketing the local landscape. The blast was loud enough to register on nuclear detonation detectors even in Antarctica, and it triggered a tsunami that knocked out communication lines in all 170 islands of Tonga. Ongoing supply chain issues on top of a global pandemic have further complicated relief efforts, according to the New York Timealthough international aid is now arriving and some internet access has been restored.

Still, much more relief will be needed to get people back to their homes and clean up the islands. Many Tongans, Taufatofua said Vicehave “drank only from rainwater reservoirs, and many of them are covered with ashes”.

“The ash went from the roofs, into the tank, so you have 10,000 liter tanks with that much ash in them,” he explained. “Sulphur and water. Not a good mix.

A rare summer-winter athlete, Taufatofua participated for the first time in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (sport: Tae Kwon Do). His entrance to the Games wearing the ta’ovala he smuggled in, showcasing lots of glowing abs, was truly a sensation, and so we were thrilled to see him blaze at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. . He taught himself cross-country skiing just for the occasion! A man of many talents! And so much more than a sporty hunk: The 38-year-old is also a UNICEF ambassador and climate activist, and is currently crowdfunding tsunami relief and sending food to the inhabitants of the outer islands.

“We are feeding thousands and thousands of people with hot fresh bread,” he said. Vice. “And that means a lot to people on the outer islands, because it’s their main meal in the morning, bread and tea – not everyone can afford the food.”

So, you see, Mr. Olympic is busy and unfortunately won’t be able to attend the Beijing Games. Understandable regardless of the circumstances – the event is already very busy due to coronavirus and human rights concerns – but Taufatofua appreciates your support at this time. “I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for this awareness,” said “Thank you for sharing with your governments about our small country and thank you for checking in on the Tongan people.”

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