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By Moses Stevens

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (March 3, 2000)---Vanuatu and particularly Port Vila will appear before millions of television viewers around the world from 28th through 29th of May this year as the Olympic Torch is carried through the capital town at that time.

And the spotlight will be on Erakor village on South Efate as the people celebrate the start of the Olympic Torch Relay.

Vasanoc, the local organizers of the Olympic torch relay run, have chosen Erakor village as the starting point of the run -- and consequently have chosen the village head chief, Waea Tenene, to start it off.

The choice is a significant coincidence in a way, since Erakor village is known for being the place where the light (Gospel of Jesus Christ) began before spreading to the northern part of Efate and later on to the islands in the north.

A strong team of international media organizations including CNN will be traveling with the torch to all the chosen countries until its arrival in Sydney on the official opening day of the Sydney 2000 Olympics at the Sydney Olympic Stadium in September.

It is a chance in a lifetime to see the Olympic Torch -- especially the flame that is lit in Athens, Greece, and is carried all around the world every time the Olympic Games are held. At the games venue, the flame is usually kept alight on a giant torch all throughout the duration of the competitions.

According to information released from the Vasanoc office, the torch will be passing through three villages on South Efate including Erakor village. Mele and Pango and the other two villages that the torch will be traveling through.

But residence of Fresh Water and Anaburu will also have a close up chance because the proposed route also runs through their areas.

A total of one hundred people selected from all works of life, including the disabled, will be passing the torch among themselves along the route. Each runner will be expected to run a maximum distance of 500 meters (1,640 feet).

Before the last 500 meters, the torch will be carried on a canoe by an Ifira Tenuku islander across the water to Iririki island and back, before the last runner takes it up to the Independence Park for the final part of the torch relay event.

"According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements, all these must happen within seven hours -- not more, not less" Vasanoc Secretary General, Seru Korikalo said at the National Security Seminar.

The whole event will be covered and broadcast live all over the world by CNN and other major international television and media organizations.

A great chance to get Vanuatu on the international scene. For the tourism development perspective it would definitely be a tremendous opportunity.

But those responsible for national and regional security look at such events through a different eye.

"Such important occasions are the most favorite targets for terrorists and international criminals . . .so we must be ready for anything" Acting Commissioner of Police Holi Simon told participants at a one day National Security Seminar in Port Vila on Tuesday, March 7th.

The seminar, organized by the Vanuatu Police Force, was designed to gather information on how best the Olympic Torch and the Olympic officials delegations traveling with it can be looked after during their two-day stop in Port Vila at the end of May.

Mr. Simon, speaking on behalf of Police Commissioner Peter Bong, who’s away in Fiji for a fire arms management meeting, said all regional police are also pulling their resources together as they prepare to provide security during the passage of the Olympic torch in their respective cities.

"It is important to know that national security is not only a matter of responsible for the police force -- but rather it should be involving all walks of life in the country. That is why all of you are here today," Mr. Simon explained to the course participants.

The seminar involved presentations from various institutions represented including the police force, immigration, airport/civil aviation authorities, airlines, foreign affairs, media, and Vasanoc. The speakers gave a brief note of their respective company’s duties and responsibilities and the services they provide.

The outcome of the seminar will be presented in a report to the government for approval and endorsement. The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the National Security Council (NSC).

Prime Minister's Office representative at the seminar, Charles Goden, said at the end of the meeting that the government fully supports the initiative and assured that whatever submissions that will be made to the government will be given favorable consideration in relation to the relevance of the Olympic Torch coming to the country in less than two months time.

Captain Desmond Ross, Chief Executive Officer of Airport Securities, told the meeting that security at Bauerfield International Airport is under upgrading with appropriate training on personnel and installation of new equipment.

For additional reports from the Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/ Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire.

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