Robin Mitchell has said the visit of Thomas Bach, pictured being welcomed with a traditional Māori challenge during a Pōwhiri, has brought new opportunities for Oceania sport ©Getty Images

Robin Mitchell, President of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC), has hailed International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s visit and said it has brought new opportunities for sport in the region.

The IOC leader embarked on a tour of the Pacific area last week, which included stops in Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Fiji where he attended the ONOC General Assembly at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

During the visit he also met with the Organisation of Sports Federations of Oceania and praised the “great efforts” made to promote sport in the region and yesterday challenged New Zealand to put together a future Olympic Games bid that the IOC "cannot say no to".

Bach also said he was inspired by the optimism and “true Olympic spirit” shown by Vanuatu in its rebuilding effort in the wake of the devastating tropical cyclone Pam - regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu, which hit the nation in March this year.

Thomas Bach praised the “great efforts” made to promote sport in the region
Thomas Bach praised the “great efforts” made to promote sport in the region ©Fijian Government/Facebook

Above all, Mitchell said Bach understood the challenges being faced by countries in the Oceania region as they work to develop and promote sport.

“The main benefit is that he (Bach) now better understands the problems that the islands are having,” he explained.

“It’s not the will to play sport but some countries like Tuvalu have to use the airport to play sport.

“The lack of equipment, the lack of coaching; but all of these countries are doing the best they can with what they have.”

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