Vatican launches athletics team with nuns, priests and Swiss Guards

Vatican athletics team has its eye on the Olympic Games.

The Vatican's first athletic team, known as Athletica Vaticana, includes priests, nuns and Swiss guards, and is aiming to compete in international sporting competitions - including the Olympics.

The team was launched officially on 10 January after the Holy See reached a bilateral agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

Athletica Vaticana currently has 62 accredited athletes, among whom the youngest is a 19-year-old Swiss Guard and the oldest a 62-year-old professor of the Vatican Apostolic Library.

The team's president Monsignor Melchor Jose Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, from the Vatican’s sports department in the culture ministry, said the "dream is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.”

Athletica Vaticana, whose tracksuits are navy with the crossed keys of St Peter as the team's logo, is the latest effort by the Holy See to promote sport as an instrument of dialogue, peace and solidarity. 

Thanks to the agreement with CONI, Athletica Vaticana is a member of the Italian track association and becomes the first Vatican sports team to come under Italy's official sporting umbrella.

In recent years the Holy See has fielded unofficial football teams as well as establishing St Peter’s Cricket Club, comprising priests and seminarians, which has strengthened relations between the Vatican and the Anglican church through cricket tours in Britain.

While the Oympics may indeed be a dream, the team hopes to compete in international events such as the Games of the Small States of Europe, a competition open to states with fewer than one million inhabitants.

In the meantime, Athletica Vaticana's first outing is the 10-km Corsa di Miguel in Rome on 20 January.

Photo Maurizio Brambatti/EPA

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Vatican launches athletics team with nuns, priests and Swiss Guards

00120 Città del Vaticano