Working Together for Paralympic Sport in Oceania
Date released: November 2012
Updated: August 2017
Partners: Fred Fatiaki, Andrew Bynon
The Paralympic Games in London had a huge impact around the world. The benefits go way beyond the excitement of the two weeks of competition. In this episode we explore the benefits the Paralympic Games, including the lead-up and aftermath, for the Oceania region. It’s a terrific story of cooperation and collective impact.
During the 2012 Paralympic Games we heard a lot about Team GB. Naturally, as they were the host nation and put on a magnificent Games. We heard about other successful countries too, China were outstanding, as were Russia, the Ukraine and Australia.
These are the high profile media stories. But there are a million stories from the Paralympic Games and the impact of such an event is far and wide. There are personal stories and there are collective stories. In this episode we’re going to take a look at the impact of the Paralympic Games in the Oceania region, particularly in the aftermath of Iliesa Delena’s first ever Paralympic (and Olympic) Gold medal for Fiji in the F42 high jump.
During the London Paralympics Ken caught up with some colleagues from the Oceania Region resulting in interviews with Fred Fatiaki and Andrew Bynon. We’ll come to these in a second!
Ken also caught a word with Paul Bird, President of the Oceania Paralympic Committee (OPC). Paul, a former Australian Olympic swimmer and Chef de Mission and Assistant Chef de Mission at many Paralympic Games, outlined the specific approach adopted by the Oceania nations. By working together as an Oceania group and pooling resources, in particular human resources, the Pacific nations were able to approach the London 2012 Games as a unified region rather than as separate Committees competing for scarce resources.
The eight nations of the Oceania Region, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, Samoa, The Solomons, Tonga and Vanuatu, travelled together to their final preparation holding camp in Cardiff, following an agreement between the Welsh Government and the OPC, facilitated by Disability Sport Wales and The Halberg Trust (New Zealand).
This collective approach meant that the smaller Pacific nations could benefit from the huge experience of Australia and New Zealand’s almost six decades of Paralympic experience with athletes and coaching staff training and billeting together both in Wales and the Olympic Village in London.
This is a terrific example of collective impact and the power of different organisations and countries working together for a common goal. In this case, the development of Paralympic sport in the Oceania region. Well done to all!
Impact in Oceania
The interviews with Andrew and Fred were held in the Oceania accommodation block in the Athletes’ Village. Andrew Bynon started his relationship with Vanuatu as a VIDA volunteer with the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee (VPC).
Following his return to Australia, Andrew maintained his links and commitment to the VPC and travelled to London as Chef de Mission for the Vanuatu Paralympic team. He is also currently
Secretary-General of the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee.
Andrew reflects on the benefits of the joint Oceania approach and on the potential impact in Vanuatu, and the wider Pacific Region, of the successful participation of Marcel Houssimoli, running in the combined T37/T38 400 metres track. Marcel was the first athlete from Vanuatu to ever participate in either a Paralympic or Olympic final.
Andrew also raises the issue around perceptions about Paralympic sport in Vanuatu—and the view of some that it is for the benefit of the few and not the many.
Fred Fatiaki is the Sport Development Officer at the Fiji Paralympic Committee and a well-known figure in disability and grassroots sport in the Oceania region.
In London, Fred was coach to Fijian athlete Iliesa Delana, who became the first Fijian athlete to win a Paralympic or Olympic gold medal when he won the F42 high jump.
Ken asked Fred to comment on the likely huge impact of Ilieasa’s stunning achievement in London. It’s all the more amazing when you consider that Iliesa’s event in Beijing 2008 was cut. However, he never gave up the dream of a Paralympic medal—even training as a swimmer at one point—until his well-deserved victory.
Ken was lucky to be present in the Olympic Stadium when Iliesa won gold. Two days later he was in the Athlete’s Village to conduct these interviews. Iliesa and Fred had already done so many interviews that they decided to escape for a while—by going to stay on an army camp in Wales where Fred’s brother serves in the British Army!
If you would like to read a bit more about the pre-Games training camp in Cardiff with all the Oceania participants you can download the small brochure below. There’s some terrific photos of the teams…
The Paraylmpic Games generates a lot of stories. This one is all about collective impact—how good things come about when people, organisations and countries come together to support each other. It’s also about the power and influence the Paralympic Games can have, particularly following the success of athletes such as Marcel and Iliesa.
We wish all the very best to our friends in Oceania and we are sure that we’ll be seeing many more Marcel’s and Iliesa’s in the future.
About the author: Ken Black
Founding Director - The Inclusion Club
I have worked as a practitioner in the area of inclusive physical activity and disability sport for over 35 years. This has included 10 years working in special education, 2 years for a disability sport organisation (UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability), 6 years as a disability sports development officer for Leeds City Council sports development team, 6 years as the Inclusive Sport Officer with the Youth Sport Trust, 3 years as Sports Consultant with the Australian Sports Commission, (working in the Disability Sport Unit), and 2 years running a research and development centre on disability sport at Loughborough University.