Thomas Bach is due to travel to Vanuatu next month for what will be the first visit by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) President to the nation since Juan Antonio Samaranch in 1987.
Bach’s visit to Port Vila, on May 3 and 4, comes in the wake of tropical cyclone Pam and he will tour sports venues to assess the damage caused in the deadly natural disaster, which killed at least 11 people.
Henry Tavoa, chief executive of the Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (VASNOC), told insidethegames the tours will help give a realistic view on how and where a $500,000 (£330,000/€440,000) grant from the IOC and Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) will be used to help rebuild facilities on the island.
“The damage to sports venues caused by TC Pam is already having an immediate negative effect on Vanuatu sport,” he said.
“Most athletes have no venue to prepare properly for the upcoming PNG2015 Pacific Games, but overall, the longer it takes to rebuild and repair the venues, the longer it will take for athletes to prepare for future competitions too and with the priority of rebuilding focused on non-sporting infrastructure, this may take longer than expected.
“Remember, we host Van2017 [Pacific Mini Games} and have Rio 2016 [Olympics}, Gold Coast 2018 [Commonwealth Games], Tonga 2019 [Pacific Games] and also sport-specific regional and international competitions to prepare for.”
Tavoa claimed the IOC and ANOC donation has a made “a huge difference” to the nation and he welcomed the move by Bach to take the time to visit Vanuatu.
“It is no coincidence that the only two IOC Presidents to visit Vanuatu will have done so immediately after two of the country’s worst cyclones hit us,” he added.
“Samaranch after TC Uma and now Bach is visiting in the wake of TC Pam.
“The first was to build Vanuatu’s path to membership of the IOC and international sporting community and the second to re-build Vanuatu through sport.
“To visit us in difficult times of need like this, shows the humanitarian heart and true spirit of Olympism in action through the IOC leadership to keep placing sport in the services of Vanuatu communities.”
Bach will be joined in Vanuatu by a delegation of senior Olympic Movement figures, including IOC vice-president John Coates, Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) President and IOC member Robin Mitchell and IOC director general Christophe De Kepper and is scheduled to meet with Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale.
The German is also due to open the country’s first sport and Olympic museum.
He will travel to Vanuatu after attending the ONOC General Assembly in Fiji’s capital Suva at the end of this month.
April 2015: Vanuatuan table tennis star to compete at ITTF Oceania Cup despite problems caused by Cyclone Pam
March 2015: IOC and ANOC provide financial aid to help Vanuatu rebuild National Olympic Committee headquarters
October 2014: Vanuatu set to open first national sport museum