vanuatu beach volleyball

Vanuatu beach volleyball women’s team. Photo: Adele Willie

Four years after they were denied a place at the Rio Olympics in controversial circumstances, concern is growing that Vanuatu’s attempt to send a women’s beach volleyball team to Tokyo in August could be blighted by the corona virus.

The key qualifying tournament was due to be held in Wuhan in June, but although that plan has been scrapped, there is no intention at this stage to take the event out of China altogether, and the Vanuatu camp are very uneasy about that prospect.

After missing out narrowly on Olympic qualification in 2016, Vanuatu thought they had been thrown a life line when one of the Italian pair failed a dope test prior to the Games.

The Vanuatu Olympic committee argued that both the Italians should be disqualified as a result, but the IOC saw matters differently and allowed the Europeans to bring in another player, rather than handing their spot to the ni-Van pair instead.

Four years on, and Vanuatu have a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the bank, and now their sights are fixed firmly on the Olympic beach volleyball competition in Tokyo.

They have some work to do first though, at the Oceania championships next month, but if all goes well they would expect to be in the shake-up at that final Olympic qualifying tournament in June, and right now Craig Carracher, Executive Member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation, says the intention is still to stage it in China.

And although the tournament is still four months away, the President of the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation, Debbie Masauvakalo, is uneasy at the prospect.

“We’re not a hundred percent comfortable because of the coronavirus situation, and the safety of our players comes first, so we would probably prefer not to go to China,” Ms Masauvakalo said.

“We have to talk to our national Olympic committee and the Vanuatu government.”

A final decision on staging the event won’t be taken until the end of March, and should it be moved out of China in the end, Vanuatu are standing by to step in, having been the only other country to bid for hosting rights in the first place.

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