Wolfgramm says he was not source for PM’s speech, but maintains Games criticism

Tongan Olympian Paea Wolfgramm has denied that he told the Prime Minister that members of the committee organising the 2019 South Pacific Games were not productive.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohva recently said that GOC members were not productive, despite being paid a monthly allowance.

Wolfrgramm, who won silver in the Super Heavyweight boxing division at the Atlanta Games, said he had written several letters over the years expressing his concerns and suggesting ways of supporting the kingdom’s athletes to various government figures.

He said he had also discussed the issue personally with Prime Minister and that perhaps the Prime Minister had drawn his own conclusions from what he said.

“I am deeply concerned for 2019,” Wolfrgramm said.

“I apologise for any offense they may cause, but not for the truth and  sentiment they contain.

“Perhaps the PM picked-up on that sentiment, and understood the sum of it as a ‘launga.’ We may debate the rhetoric. But the reality is our troubled preparation lie around us like fallen snow. For each passing day, it is hardening and compacting.”

Wolfgramm told Kaniva News he retained his long standing and very deep concern at the problems surrounding the preparations for the 2019 Games.

The Olympian has left Tonga .

“I have been designated to no longer play a meaningful role within the 2019 Games. I have accepted that,” he said.

“In doing so I also sincerely wish you the GOC, the chairman and secretariat all the best.”

In an article written for Spasifik magazine after his departure, Wolfgramm said his hopes that Tonga would continue to enjoy international sporting success had died as the kingdom’s Olympic organisation slowly imploded.

“It seems as if Atlanta had never happened,” he wrote.

“No one seems interested to ask why.

“I think Tonga’s Olympic administrators just do not care enough for our athletes.

“Athletes are optimistic by nature. They readily substitute meagre resources for the abundance of spirit. But even that runs dry when they see tens of thousands of dollars spent on administrative travel.

“Meanwhile, they hitchhike or scrimp a dollar for a bus fare to get to training. That is why very few sports in Tonga retain their athletes. And fewer still have athletes that return to give back to their sport.”

A canoe in the sand

A canoe is safe in the sand, but it is not what canoes are made for.

With that metaphor, Olympian Paea Wolfgramm expressed what he thinks is one of the most serious problems with Tonga’s preparations for the 2019 Games – an unwillingness to try anything new.

Instead, the Tongan organising committee was trying to do things the same way, with the same mindset, and hoping for a different result.

Wolfgramm’s comments were contained in a letter he wrote to the Solomon Islands National Olympic committee after that country was awarded the 2023 SPG.

He advised the Solomon Islands committee to cherish its athletes and remember that the games were about people and participation more than making money and erecting new buildings.

In his letter, Wolfgramm said: “You may have heard there is great discord in Tonga’s lagging preparation. As the first to host outside the ‘Big Five’, we are a litmus test and are being watched with interest.

“It is regretful to say, that we are struggling in our test. The expectation placed on us by our peers is at this point not bound to be realised. In my opinion we will still see our obligation through. But the positive social impact I had hoped for with TONGA 2019, has sadly been squandered.

“Our first mistake was failing to embrace our people from the beginning.   I implored our team to set the tone with a public launching and official acknowledgement. Unfortunately I was ignored and I think some problems we have now, can be traced back to that first mis-step.

“Along with the embracing of your people, hold your athletes dear. They are your ‘army’ for 2023.  They draw strength from the land and its people. How you make your people feel towards 2023, is what the athletes will feel towards 2023 also.

“Make them feel valued and embed Team Solomon with the culture that 2023 will be their celebration for all their sacrifice. Show them, that as administrators, you will sacrifice right alongside them.”


The day Muhammed Ali gave Tongan boxing champ Wolfgramme a word of advice

The day Muhammed Ali gave Tongan boxing champ Wolfgramme a word of advice

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