(K. Brent Tomer),
Residents of the Pacific islands aren’t used to seeing their compatriots win Olympic medals. Between them, the nations from within the “Polynesian triangle”—a zone cornered by New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii, which contains the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa and Niue—have won just a single silver, claimed by super-heavyweight Tongan boxer Paea Wolfgramm in 1996. Until this summer, no athlete from Micronesia or Melanesia—regions that count among their members Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Nauru, Palau and Kiribati—had ever stood on an Olympic podium. That streak ended on August 11th, when Fiji thrashed Great Britain in the final of the men’s rugby sevens 43-7, running in an astonishing seven tries on their way to claiming gold.
That the Pacific islands should have enjoyed so little glory in the Olympics is hardly a shock. These nations are small—only Papua New Guinea has more than a million inhabitants—and poor. The most prosperous, Palau and Nauru, have a GDP per capita of around $15,000, roughly the global average. The next richest state, Fiji, has an output of just $9,000 per head.
Yet Fiji’s…Continue reading