Opening ceremony live: follow the parade of nations

February 4, 2022, 7:32 a.m. ET February 4, 2022, 7:32 a.m. ET Pita Taufatofua has been Tonga’s flag bearer at the last three Ol...

Lauren McCarthy

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Pita Taufatofua, a Tongan athlete perhaps best known for his role as a shirtless, oiled-up flag bearer, will not compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics – much to the disappointment of loyal Opening Ceremony viewers who had hoped his sparkling return.

The three-time Olympian, who has competed in taekwondo and cross-country skiing, focuses instead on disaster response a powerful tsunami who struck his native island nation after a nearby volcano erupted with colossal force. In January, he had not yet qualified to compete and opted not to try to qualify after the disaster.

“Even with the qualifying criteria, I couldn’t have gone to Beijing,” he said, because in Tonga there are “too many people who are hungry for me not to focus there. -low”.

“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Taufatofua said, but “what the Olympics are about is more than just sport, and so I think there’s a certain level of Olympic effort that we’re doing now from anyway.”

Parts of Tonga, a Pacific island nation with a population of around 100,000, were only 40 miles from the site of the blast. The country was covered in ash and many residents lost both communication and electricity. It took days before Taufatofua heard from his father and confirmed that he had been found safe and sound.

Taufatofua immediately launched a GoFundMe page for relief efforts. “In the next few days, weeks, we will need your help,” he wrote on the page during a training camp in Australia. “Initial priority for funds will go to those most in need, infrastructure and damage to schools, hospitals etc.” The page raised nearly AU$800,000, or about $571,000.

Taufatofua, 38, made history as a rare athlete who competed in the Summer and Winter Games. Taufatofua first competed at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro as the first Tongan to qualify in taekwondo.

But he made headlines after appearing in the opening ceremony shirtless and dressed in traditional Tongan clothing, which he repeated in freezing temperatures at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and warmer weather in Tokyo last year.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Opening ceremony live: follow the parade of nations
Opening ceremony live: follow the parade of nations
Newsrust - US Top News
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