Paralympic athletes from six Oceaniac countries have praised Cardiff for the warm welcome the city has given them as they prepare for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Athletes from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Papa New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Soloman Islands have been in Cardiff for the last two weeks, as the Welsh capital hosted the Oceania Paralympic Team’s pre-grames training camp.
At a special ceremony outside City Hall and the Paralympic Agitos symbol this morning, the flag bearers who will lead each of the country’s athletes into the Paralympic opening ceremony on August 29 were revealed, and the sportsmen and women thanked Cardiff for the support they had received during their final weeks of preparation.
Chris Nunn, high performance director of the Australian Paralympic Committee – who have also been preparing in the city – said Cardiff had become a special place to the athletes over the last fortnight, as they trained at venues including Cardiff International Pool and Cardiff International Sports Stadium.
Sainiana Tukana, Chef de Mission of the Fiji Paralympic Team, added: “On behalf of the athletes of Oceania, it’s an honour and privilege for me to thank the Welsh Government, Cardiff City Council and the beautiful people of Cardiff for the wonderful hospitality we have experienced from day one of our arrival. You have made us all feel at home.”
Francis Kompaon won Papa New Guinea’s first ever Olympic or Paralympic medal when he took silver in the Paralympic men’s 100 metres in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Named as his country’s flag bearer for a second time during the ceremony at City Hall this morning, Francis said it was an “amazing feeling” to be told he would lead Papa New Guinea’s athletes out at the Olympic Stadium.
He added: “I’ve loved my time here in Cardiff. The people have been very welcoming. We trained at the stadium, and I’m feeling good going into the games.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Fijian high jumper Iliesa Delana will compete in his first Paralympic Games in London, and praised the quality of the training facilities he had been given access to here in Cardiff.
Iliesa, who was named as his country’s flag bearer, added: “I’m very proud to be my country’s flag bearer. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, so it’s an honour and will be very memorable.”