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Friday, February 9, 2018

Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan ~from Rio Olympics to PyeongChang Winter Olympics

The venue  in Aug 2016 was  - Maracanã Stadium, a football stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  During the Parade of Nations within the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, athletes and officials from each participating country marched in the Maracanã Stadium preceded by their flag and placard bearer. In keeping with Olympic traditions, Greece, the birth place of the olympic games that started in 1896, entered first, while Brazil, the host nation, went last. The Refugee Olympic Team, composed of refugees from several countries, went second to last and received a standing ovation. 

The most eye-popping outfit was really just a greased up hunk. Taekwondo fighter Pita Taukatofua sent social media into meltdown when he carried the Tonga flag with no shirt - completely covered in baby oil. Pita Nikolas Taufatofua, 32, who qualified for the Olympics through the Oceania taekwondo qualification had fallen short in his two previous attempts to make the Olympics. According to his official biography, he was born in Australia but chose to compete for Tonga.

Tonga,  officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited.  The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres scattered over 700,000 square kilometres  of the southern Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 107,122 people.  Tonga stretches across approximately 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line. It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna(France),  Samoa;  Niue;  Kermadec (part of New Zealand) and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu.  Tonga became known in the West as the Friendly Islands because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773. He arrived at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the First Fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities.   In 2010, Tonga took a decisive path towards becoming a constitutional monarchy rather than a traditional absolute kingdom, after legislative reforms passed a course for the first partial representative elections.

The Olympic Winter Games 2018 got under way in thrilling style at  PyeongChang  on 9 February with a spectacular Opening Ceremony at the host city’s Olympic Stadium. Pita Taufatofua became an instant celebrity as he carried Tonga's flag at the Rio Olympics while topless ~  he  reappeared at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, just as topless as before despite -3C temperatures …. Taufatofua who competed at Rio in the martial art of taekwondo has since retrained as a  cross-country skier in Winter Olympics. 

Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan who captured global attention as the oiled and topless flagbearer at the Rio Olympics, has again sent pulses racing by revealing his torso at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. The toned athlete - renowned for his film star looks - seemed unfazed by the bitter South Korean cold as he again waved the flag of his tiny Polynesian nation.  Taufatofua carried his national flag aloft with a beaming smile despite temperatures in the main stadium being as low as -3C. A complete unknown until the Rio curtain raiser, it later emerged that he was a part-time model and worked with homeless children - only adding to his allure.  Taufatofua at the time lived in Brisbane, Australia, but chose to represent Tonga, an island nation with a population of 105,000, because that is where his father comes from.  Before Rio the athlete has failed to qualify for three previous Olympics and suffered a slate of serious injuries, including six broken bones and three torn ligaments.

He was just one highlight of a spectacular opening ceremony which saw both Koreas unite under one flag  !  ~  athletes from both North and South Korea marched out together at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongyang Winter Olympics under a flag depicting a unified Korean peninsula.   In total North Korea has send 22 athletes to the games who will be competing across five disciplines, including figure skating, skiing and speed skating.  The ceremony was capped by the lighting of the Olympic torch by Kim Yu-na, the 2010 Olympic champion in figure skating, using a mechanism that extended up towards the cauldron before it ignited.  Alongside the huge puppets were spectacular light displays and thousands of dancers wearing traditional Korean costumes.  Intel set a Guinness World Record for the most drones flown simultaneously – more than 1,200 – during the first drone light show in the history of Olympic Games.

                           North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un 's sister was seen enjoying the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea sitting right behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Kim Yo Jong had taken her seat just feet away from the Vice President, behind his wife Karen Pence, after shaking the hand of South Korean President Moon Jae-in as they entered the stadium for the event.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th Feb 2018.

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