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Faster, higher, holier: Vatican Athletics gets Olympic blessing

The team includes Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library.

Members of the Vatican athletics team.
Members of the Vatican athletics team.
Image: Andrew Medichini

THE NEWLY-FORMED VATICAN Athletics team, which is aiming to compete in international competitions, including the Olympics, was officially launched on Thursday after reaching a bilateral agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

So far there are 60 members of Vatican Athletics — the first Sports Association constituted in the Holy See — which includes nuns, priests, Swiss Guards and other workers.

Monsignor Melchor José Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, president of Vatican Athletics, said at the launch that the Olympic Games were “the dream but not in the short term”.

“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games,” he said.

But in the immediate future Vatican Athletics would like to be present at smaller competitions such as the Mediterranean Games.

Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Giovanni Malago praised the latest initiative at the Holy See which already has football and cricket teams.

“It will be necessary to affiliate with other federations,” he told Vatican News.

“I’m sure this will happen, today we have started a courageous and winning start up.”

The CONI agreement allows the team to take part in national and internationally sanctioned events and to have access to Italian national coaching and medical facilities.

Team members wearing navy track suits with the Holy See’s crossed keys seal were present at the launch.

The youngest athlete is a 19-year-old Swiss guard, and the oldest a 62-year-old professor of the Vatican Apostolic Library.

Two young Muslim asylum-seekers Jallow Buba, a 20-year-old Gambian, and Anszou Cissè, a 19-year-old Senegalese, have also been registered as honorary members.

Vatican pharmacist and runner Michela Ciprietti said she welcomed the initiative as “sport is the means of bringing people together.”

The team’s first official event will be the Corsa di Miguel on 20 January, a 10km race in Rome honouring Miguel Sanchez, an Argentine distance runner who disappeared during the country’s dictatorship.

© AFP 2019

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