August 9, 2008

Olympic Opening Ceremony Part 2

Last night 204 nations took part in the Parade of Nations at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Some athletes were from countries I hadn't heard of before, including Vanuatu, Djibouti, Palau, Tuualu, Comoros, and Kiribati. The announcers did a good job of situating the less well-known nations for viewers, but I was too busy watching the athletes to make note of their comments. Now I've done my own googling to find out.

From the Vanuatu tourism office: "Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands with a unique blend of intact tribal communities, resorts, beaches and geography ranging from accessible volcanoes to pristine underwater environments, offering unique and memorable experiences."

Djibouti lies between Ethiopia and the Gulf of Aden. From the CIA's online fact book: Djibouti hosts the only U. S. military base in sub-Saharan Africa and is therefore vital to the war on terrorism.

Palau is in the Pacific Ocean. According to the Destination Micronesia website, "
Palau is one of the most extraordinary diving spots on this planet. Far to the southwest of Micronesia the Republic of Belau (the traditional name) consists of an archipelago of 343 islands, spread north to south over 100 miles form the atoll of Kayangel to the island of Angaur plus five tiny islands, known as the southwest islands."
Further (and I wonder why all of us Americans don't know this already), Palau became a United Nations Trust Territory under U. S. administration following World War II. It gained independence on October 1, 1994.

Tuvalu has a very informative website from which I got all of the information that follows. Competing in its first Olympics this year, with 3 athletes, Tuvalu is "an independent constitutional monarchy in the southwest Pacific Ocean." It's been independent from Great Britain since October 1, 1976. An estimated 11,636 people live on 9 atolls in a total of 10 square miles of land. Major sources of income are the sale of stamps and the sale of domain names that include its unique ".tv" suffix (one example is "").

Comoros. According to,
"The Comoros is an archipelago consisting of a group of islands in the Mozambique Channel, about two-thirds of the way between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique." A lovely website by Martin and Harriet Ottenheimer provides further information about the islands and superb photos of the bat,unique to the Comoros, with a four-foot wingspan; and the coelacanth, a fish thought extinct for millions of years by everyone in the world except Comoros islanders, who were regularly catching them.

Kiribati. This information comes from the website of the U. S. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ah-bhass") consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level."

One final piece of I-should-have-known information garnered last night: Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo are two different nations. The latter is The Nation Formerly Known as Zaire and was the site of Muhammad Ali's successful Rumble in the Jungle.

Thus endeth the geography lesson.

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