Tongan flag bearer returns but Vanuatu says ‘Hold my flag’

Tongan Flag Bearer Vanuatu

“Tonga won! We can all go home now,” said the internet last night following the much-anticipated appearance of oiled up Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua. But then Vanuatu said ‘hold my flag’ as their own shirtless and oiled Rillio Rii entered the Olympic stadium.

Hopefully, Rillio’s Olympic appearance inspires an interest in beautiful Vanuatu equal to that Pita achieved for Tonga.

Certainly, even ahead of last night’s ceremony, many Brisbane people booked on next year’s Rainbow Group Holiday with Vanuatu as one of the destinations on the week-long cruise.

The Tongan flag bearer

Pita Taufatofua set the internet on fire in 2016 when his oiled torso appeared at the Rio Olympic stadium.

Before the Olympics, officials told him to ‘just wear a suit’. But he packed a traditional ta’ovala and covered himself in oil before the opening ceremony. His appearance in the stadium put Tonga on the map. Suddenly, people who never heard of the Pacific nation decided they wanted to visit. A week later, 230 million internet users had searched, “Where is Tonga?”

Pita said he wanted to draw attention to what native and cultural people have to offer.

“I was representing 1,000 years of history. We didn’t have suits and ties when we traversed the Pacific Ocean.”

Tokyo marks Pita’s third consecutive Olympics. He learned cross-country skiing in order to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics and wore his ta’ovala again despite the bitter cold in Pyeongchang.

Beyond his hunk status, the Brisbane-educated engineer is a UNICEF ambassador and a climate activist. He also spent 15 years working with homeless children.

He currently splits his time between Brisbane and Tonga.

Last night, the official Olympic account tweeted, “Pita, we see you, and raise you.”


Rillio Rii

A previous Vanuatu Sportsman of the year, Rillio Rii is one of three athletes representing the Pacific nation at the Tokyo Olympics. He’s competing in the Men’s Single Sculls after training on Queensland’s Gold Coast in 2020.


Rillio Rii vanuatu tongan flag bearer
Image: Rillio Rii Facebook

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