A pair of Japanese honeymooners stranded in Cape Verde by the coronavirus pandemic have been named unlikely ambassadors for the tropical paradise's Olympic team at next year's Tokyo Games.
Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka started a round-the-world trip in December in South Africa, and were working their way north in February when the scale of the pandemic began to become clear. They scrapped their plans to continue on to Europe and decided to fly to Cape Verde. They have since been stuck there.
"I thought maybe the fact that we were stuck in Cape Verde due to the pandemic might attract media interest. But I never imagined that we would become Cape Verde's Olympic ambassadors." Rikiya now ambassador of Cape Verde for Tokyo Games said.
In exchange for meals and lodging. Rikiya, who runs a sharehouse business in Tokyo and works as a videographer, began producing videos and photos for local restaurants and resorts.
Word soon got out, and local media picked up the story, catching the eye of the country's Olympic officials.
- Promoting Cape Verde -
Leonardo Cunha, Cape Verde's chef de mission for the Tokyo Games, decided to get in touch and propose a partnership.
"We decided to invite them as our ambassadors because they were making a lot of high-quality videos of Sal Island and taking a lot of attention from it," he explained in an email.
"They were keen on promoting our country, even being in a difficult situation," he added. For Rikiya, this was surprising.
The request came out of the blue.
"I thought maybe the fact that we were stuck in Cape Verde... might attract media interest. But I never imagined that we would become Cape Verde's Olympic ambassadors," he laughed.
Tiny Cape Verde, with a population of around 550,000 people, expects to send just a handful of athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Games, which were postponed earlier this year as the pandemic exploded.
Cunha said the couple were in a unique position to promote the country.
"We are only asking them to keep documenting their trip to Cape Verde and promote the images and the morabeza (traditional Cape Verde hospitality) that they are experiencing".
"We hope that from now on they can persist in this task of promoting our country and take the opportunity to do it as well during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games." according to Cunha.
Cape Verde's airport is still closed, and Rikiya is not in any hurry to leave -- he has plans to film the country's president and Olympic committee.