The Marshall Islands show their heritage.

By Lewis Woods of The Reporters’ Academy


Many years and months of planning goes into the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and London was no exception. With the world watching, everything is planned to detail. Everyone has their views on the style and substance of the proceedings but it is also the chance for each of the 204 nations to showcase themselves.

Very few nations present on the evening can have afforded as much detail, thought and time to their moment as The Marshall Islands. They put months of planning into stepping into the Olympic Stadium, with flag bearer Haley Nemra and 100 metre sprinter Timi Garstang adorned in traditional tribal clothing, and their delegation suitably reflecting a proud heritage.

Whether watching on TV or marching alongside; The Pacific islanders uniform exuded the colour, culture and stories that make up a nation.

For instance, each Bula shirt was printed with tattoos all reflecting a special meaning. The Annijjar, a traditional tattoo that means ‘praying to the gods’ and is represented by a human body kneeling. Faith and the sea play a vital part of Marshallese life. Crabs, turtles, sharks and a Bwijak (tail end of a unicorn fish) tell the important story of food and employment from the sea. As a result, The Marshall Islands delegation had possibly the most colourful and well thought out uniform on display.

The High Chief back home gave special permission for the team to wear traditional tribal necklaces. This was a huge honor for the athletes and coaches to wear the necklaces for such a big ceremony.

Leading the nation out in front of 80,000 in the stadium and an estimated 4 billion watching on TV was athlete Haley Nemra. A proud bearer of the flag for her country. She was well aware of the significance of the outfit that she was wearing. Haley wore a traditional straw outfit and told me, “some of my friends told me their was going to be 4 billion people watching me, and I was honored to wear the outfit, but I was just worried incase anything fell of it!”

It is fair to say that all the hard work of planning these fantastic outfits was worth it. It is often an observation that the entrance of the athletes is not as highly anticipated as the displays and pyrotechnics in the opening Ceremony. The delegation and team of The Marshall Islands proved the exception to that outdated rule. Vibrant, bursting with pride a splash of colour and fascinating history were ingredients that said The Marshall Islands are here not only to compete but also to bring their country to the world.

Athletes can put their countries on the map by winning Olympic medals. The Marshall Islands’ team did this even before the first medal had been awarded.

As 4 billion people watched the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad, and four proud athletes and their coaches walked out and put the Marshall Islands on the map.


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