Vanuatu is home to many sporting activities, which have led to the creation of many an association. In this piece, we will look at roles played by various organizations in the development of sports in the country. We will also go into how history shaped the development of this sector.
After independence, many changes took place in the sports sector in Vanuatu. For one, all national sports federations now fell under the Vanuatu Amateur Sports Federation, abbreviated as VASF. This government body started national games known as inter-district games, IDGs, which began in 1982. These events took place twice each year in select capitals in the four districts. These were the northern, southern, central district no. 1 and no. 2 districts. The games continued in the six years that followed, garnering support from across the country until their end in 1988. The last of these events took place in Ambae. Once again, the sports federations were back to the drawing board, trying to figure out the way forward. The inter-district games had been a success, and there was a need to keep them going. In this light, the VASANOC (Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee) revived the games in 1997. This time, the games were known as the inter-provincial games. Other than the name, these events also included a games charter that mapped the way forward. This clarity aided a great deal in the success of the programs. These events are now known as the Vanuatu National Games. Three years later, another change took place, this time involving school events. Schoolteachers came together and put up some secondary school games, where they encouraged students to take part in physical sports. The games continued for five years but came to an abrupt end in 2005. The failure owed to inconsistency in the competitions and an overall lack of funding.
After the country gained independence, it was a while before it joined the Olympics. When the IOC president at the time, Juan Antonio Samaranch, visited the country, it was clear that the time for change had come. Shortly afterward, stakeholders came together and formed the National Olympic Committee in 1987. The formation took place as per the Olympic Charter, such that it included football, volleyball, boxing, athletics and basketball national sports federations (NSFs). These associations had rules by which they abided, guiding sports leagues in the islands. They were instrumental in the establishment of the NOC, which worked in helping them achieve IF membership. The IOC Congress in Turkey in 1987 worked in favor of Vanuatu, thus granting it membership as an IOC member. A year later, Vanuatu took part in its very first Olympic Games, which were in Seoul under Athletics and Boxing. After that, there was no stopping this country, which hit the ground running. It participated in other events such as Athletics and Archery in 2000, and table tennis in 2008, among other summer Olympic Games. The country is yet to have its athletes participating in winter sports in this regard. For more information about Vanuatu's Olympic participation click here.
As a member of the commonwealth, Vanuatu has taken part in these games since 1982, with its first appearance in Brisbane, Australia. Here, it participated in the Athletics sector before moving on to boxing in 1982 and 1986. It later took part in cycling in 1990 and table tennis in 2006 and 2010.
Vanuatu has not held back when it comes to participating in Pacific Games since independence. It has been an active member since 1983, from its first play in Samoa. It has also been keen on taking part in the Pacific Mini-Games, with its first appearance in 1981 in the Solomon Islands. There have been some cases where the country has withdrawn from the competitions. A good example would be in the 1987 games in New Caledonia, owing to independence from France.
At the time (1987), the government ordered the VASF and VNOC factions not to participate in the games. VASF comprised of most of the NSFs and worked through government funding. It abided by the decision, only for VNOC to go against this ruling and send a football team. This move did not augur well with the government. It resulted in the withdrawal of funding for the inter-district games and merging the VASF and VNOC. This merging led to the formation of the Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee. Official approval of its constitution took place in 1991 during its first AGM. In the beginning, only 10 NSFs had an affiliation with this body. Over the years, the membership has increased to having more than 25 federations. These NSFs fall into associations, leagues, and clubs. They include netball, football, karate, basketball, athletics, volleyball, boxing, and handball. These federations operated by their own rules based on their ISFs, OSFs, or combinations of the two.