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Olympics-Stranded Japanese honeymooners end up as Cape Verde's team ambassadors

Cape Verde: Japanese couple Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka had their honeymoon wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic, but their resourcefulness in enforced exile in Cape Verde has won them appointments as ambassadors for its Olympic team.

The Kataokas had completed a third of their round-the-world trip when a suspension in long-haul flights stranded them for five months in the archipelago of 10 tiny islands off the coast of West Africa. Unable to resume their journey to Europe and then home to Japan and unwilling to head to the African mainland, where virus cases are spiking, they had to trade their skills with domestic businesses to earn funds in the absence of work visas.
But Cape Verde's Olympics officials were so intrigued by the ties the couple had built with locals that they decided to include the Kataokas in their team heading to the rearranged games in Tokyo next July. "They want me to be an ambassador of the Olympic team," Rikiya, 30, told Reuters via Zoom, speaking from the island of Sal.

Cape Verde, who have never won an Olympic medal despite participating in every summer Games since 1996, hope to take three or four athletes to Tokyo. Not only will the Kataokas be useful for their local knowledge but the islands' officials hope the recognition helps repay the couple for their work in promoting the islands, where their plight turned them into minor celebrities. "We felt the urge of giving back," said Leonardo Cunha, the islands' chef de mission for Tokyo.
Miles from home with dwindling funds, the Kataokas could easily have panicked, but Rikiya, who occasionally works as a videographer back home, made social media videos, tagging hotels and restaurants, in exchange for lodging and food.

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