NIGEL and Tracey Kol have returned from representing Warrnambool in an international half marathon in China convinced that sister city links are worth pursuing.
As debate simmered back home over Warrnambool City Council’s controversial vote against funding an official trip to its Japanese sister city of Miura to celebrate the 20th anniversary, the Kols were ambassadors in Changchun where the sister city link is just a year old.
They finished a 21-kilometre invitation race among the top bracket of international competitors with Tracey coming third in the women’s section and Nigel fourth in the men’s.
Nigel had the honour of delivering a speech on behalf of international competitors representing other cities having links with Changchun.
They also enhanced their reputation by administering first-aid to a man who collapsed while visiting a museum.
Yesterday the Kols said they didn’t want to specifically comment on the controversy which they noticed on The Standard’s website while they were in China.
However, they were keen to promote what they saw as benefits of fostering sister city links.
“There are definite benefits associated with building sister city relationships,” they told The Standard.
“Words can’t express how much they appreciate the links with Warrnambool.
“They want to develop the relationship. We can learn from them and they from us.”
The Kols, both experienced athletes, were chosen by the city council from a field of applicants and offered up to $1000 towards airfares.
Changchun provided accommodation and hosted meals and tours.
Last week three city councillors successfully voted against spending $4000 of city money to send the mayor and chief executive to Miura.
That decision is likely to be challenged in another vote on September 30 with a proposed rescission motion.
The Kols said the Chinese were keen to foster tourism links with Warrnambool and predicted an increase in international visitors to the region.
“They see us as a tourist destination and want to learn how we promote our region,” they said.
“They are also working to help get an import licence for Midfield Meat and to have Warrnambool Cheese and Butter products on their tables.
“The Chinese are a very proud people and want the best for their country.
“It’s no accident Changchun chose Warrnambool for a sister city link.”
For the record, the Kols ran side-by-side for the event and finished in one hour and 37 minutes while the winner did it in 1.11.
They described the course as “very challenging”.