The president of the Carbine Club in Vanuatu, Shaun Gilchrist, said more than 200 people were expected to attend the auction and they were hoping bidders would dig deep for a good cause.
“We are exceptionally fortunate – we were contacted by the organising committee of the Games, Van2017, and they said the local Olympic Committee had been donated a torch which Cathy Freeman had actually used to light the flame in Sydney,” he said.
“It’s been signed by her and, as your Kiwi listeners will appreciate, (Olympic board-sailer) Barbara Kendall as well so they said we’d like to auction it off to raise funds for team Vanuatu, which is the local athletes that will be participating in the event.”
Mr Gilchrist said while there were a handful of torches used for each Olympics he had been told the one being auctioned was used by Freeman to light the flame: “certainly from a Vanuatu perspective it’s the type of memorabilia we would very rarely, if ever, see come into this country”.
“I believe there was a request placed through and Cathy is a goodwill ambassador for the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast June next year and she volunteered to step up and assist Vanuatu in some fundraising, which is just sensational,” he said.
The Carbine Club is a luncheon club that started in Australia around racing, sport and fellowship.
The Vanuatu branch has been operating for five years and is heavily involved in sports development throughout the country.
Friday’s event is their biggest of the year and, while reluctant to name a figure, Mr Gilchrist said it was the perfect opportunity to auction off a unique piece of sporting memorabilia.
“We’ve had a tough couple of years in Vanuatu since Cyclone Pam so 230 (expected attendees) is pretty good,” he said.
“The interest has been pretty strong actually – there’s been some quiet interest shown back through to the Van2017 team, who have been taking pre-bids, so we expect it will raise some pretty good revenue for Team Vanuatu.
“I would hate to try and jinx the event and put a figure on it. Certainly from a Vanuatu perspective we would hope (to raise) hundreds of thousands of Vatu, which equates to thousands of Australian or New Zealand dollars.
“Our hope is that people dig deep into their pockets and get in behind a good cause – this is going directly into Ni-Vanuatu athletes who will be participating in the games and this is what it’s all about.”