Tongan flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, has yet to compete in the Rio Olympics but he’s already done more for the tiny Polynesian island than any glitzy ad campaign could ever accomplish.
“Pita literally put Tonga on the map,” the country’s console in San Francisco, Sela Tukia, told TheWrap. “It’s a huge moment for him and for the country.”
The 32-year-old Taekwondo athlete, who is scheduled to compete on Aug. 19, became an Internet sensation after the cameras locked in on his half-naked, oiled-up body at the Parade of Nations during the Rio Olympics’ opening ceremony last weekend.
“Free, light-hearted fun like that is what makes the world go round,” Tukia said. “He’s like really sweet eye-candy.”
Tukia credited Taufatofua’s “sincerity and simplicity” to his sudden international stardom, adding that whomever oiled him up must have gotten slightly “carried away” to create such a slick look.
“You can spend all this money to raise awareness and never get something like this happen,” Tukia said. “It’s great!”
A few things to keep in mind, according to Tukia:
- Tonga is a small island in the South Pacific with about 100,000 people.
- It’s a monarchy, ruled by King Tupou VI
- It has some awesome beaches
But Tukia insists it is the people that are the island’s biggest selling point.
“Our people are very friendly,” she said.
Asked if all Tongans look like Taufatofua, Tukia added: “You’ll have to check it out for yourself!”
In case you’re wondering, a roundtrip coach ticket to Tonga from Los Angeles on Fiji Airways will set you back about around $1000.
Watch Taufatofua’s oiled up entrance at the Olympics below.