Rio 2016: Tonga hoping for tourism surge from oily athlete

Thousands of people have been clicking on a website about the Pacific nation ever since

Kate Nelson
Wednesday 10 August 2016 17:56 BST
Pita Nikolas Aufatofua of Tonga carries the flag during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Pita Nikolas Aufatofua of Tonga carries the flag during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Tonga is hoping for a tourism boost thanks to one of its athletes who caused a stir after appearing topless and oiled during the opening ceremony.

Pita Taufatofua made his first appearance during the Parade of Nations in the opening ceremony.

Now Tourism Tonga spokeswoman Seini Taumoepeau has said there has been lots more online interest in the Pacific nation since Taufatofua's was shown waving his kingdom's flag in Rio de Janeiro.

Thousands more have been clicking on a website promoting Tongan holidays and hundreds more have visited the nation's Facebook page.

Taufatofua gave a remarkable interview on NBC where the presenters proceeded to rub oil over his chest as he attempted to explain how hard he worked to become the first ever athlete to represent the Polynesian nation in taekwondo.

As he was asked questions, three women suddenly appeared by his side.

The interviewer explained: "We have some oil for the ladies to put on you… Pita while they’re oiling you down; you’ve had a lot of injuries, a lot of stuff’s happened, just getting here...".

It is not the first talking point centered around bare flesh at the games.

Viewers defended BBC's Helen Skelton after she was subject to much speculation over her outfit choice while presenting the Rio Olympics.

During her coverage of the swimming events alongside Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster late on Saturday night, Skelton’s playsuit attracted much fawning and debate.

Tonga has a population of just over 100,000 and is made up of 170 tropical islands where visitors can swim with whales, snorkel and kayak.

It was never a British colony but in 1900, the King agreed a treaty of friendship with Britain, which giving it control of foreign affairs to keep Tonga “free from other predatory powers”, according to The Commonwealth’s official website.

The treaty was frequently revised until May 1970, when Tonga became fully independent.

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