Pictured: Nellie Leva (Papua New Guinea) speaking at the Women in Sport conference at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo Credit: Australian Pavilion
A cohort of sportswomen from the Pacific have just attended Expo 2020 Dubai, where they took part in a week of activities hosted by the Australian Government to showcase women in sport, centred around International Women’s Day.
Expo 2020 Dubai is the latest edition of World Expo, a global event that happens every five years with rotating host nations. Expo takes place in a large precinct where countries from around the world present a pavilion showcasing their nation to international visitors. Expo 2020 Dubai was initially scheduled for that year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently running until 31 March 2022.
Women in sport from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Vanuatu joined visiting sportswomen and sports leaders from Australia and around the world to speak at multiple events about how Australia and its Pacific neighbours are partnering through sport. The week’s events were delivered by Team Up, the Australian Government’s sport for development program in the Asia-Pacific, supported by Australia’s Sports Diplomacy Advisory Council.
The group included:
- Cathy Neap, program manager for the NRL in PNG League Bilong Laif program, which is supported by the Australian High Commission through the PNG Aus Partnership
- Tokyo 2020 Paralympian Nelly Ruth Leva, who works for Badminton PNG on the Inclusive GymBad sport for development program in Port Moresby, which is supported through Team Up
- Lavenia Yalovi from Fiji Rugby, who is national coordinator for the Get into Rugby PLUS program in Fiji, which is supported through Team Up
- Melissa Fare representing Vanuatu Cricket Association (VCA), whose social impact program, Appeal Against Violence, is supported through Team Up
The week’s activities included:
- a Women in Sport Forum showcasing the global impact of women-focused sports initiatives, with the visiting Pacific sportswomen presenting about the programs they work on and keynote speakers including the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura
- sports activities for Expo visitors on International Women’s Day
- an event celebrating sport in the Pacific, featuring the visiting Pacific sportswomen in conversation with four Australian women, accompanied by a Pacific band and attended by representatives of Pacific country pavilions at Expo 2020
- a sports diplomacy roundtable event, which shared perspectives on people-to-people connections through sport around the world
- the visiting Pacific sportswomen assisting with a sports media workshop for Dubai-based students, sharing tips about interviewing athletes and career progression in the media
- a screening of Power Meri, the PNG Orchids documentary starring Cathy Neap, who was the Orchids’ inaugural captain
- visits to the Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu pavilions
“It was really amazing coming to Expo,” said Nelly Ruth Leva. “Being able to speak about my road to Tokyo and my work on the Inclusive GymBad program with people from around the world was a huge opportunity. It was also a big honour to meet some other Paralympians from Australia, Curtis McGrath and Jessica Smith. I am even more motivated to train hard for my next Games after this experience.”
Cathy Neap, who was one of the keynote speakers at the Women in Sport Forum, said: “It has been a long time since we got to meet with our fellow women in sport from other countries because of COVID, so Expo was an amazing chance to do that and to hear from people in other parts of the world about the great work they are doing in women’s sport. There are a lot of opportunities to work together in the future. It was also a huge honour to be one of the keynote speakers at the Women in Sport Forum alongside the Secretary General of FIFA.”
Australia’s Commissioner General to Expo 2020 Dubai, Justin McGowan said: “The Pacific is Australia’s home, and it was fantastic to welcome women in sport from across the Pacific to the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2020. We were inspired by their determination, stories of courage, and athleticism. In the Pacific we share a common love of sport, and it was great to see that shared passion on show in Dubai.”
Text first published by Team Up