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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 12, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The only sour note sounded during the South Pacific Mini-Games Opening Ceremonies Monday came from Vidhya Lakhan, Secretary General for the South Pacific Games Council and President of the Fiji International Sports Federation.

In his formal remarks, the Fiji-based official said, "I have been very much disappointed by some very negative reporting on the preparation of the Games."

Reports of facilities construction delays and vandalism at several Mini-Games venues resulted in much of the pre-games negative media coverage.

Lakhan went on to say, however, that he has personally witnessed "the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the preparations for the hosting of these Games," and thanked the people and government of American Samoa for their extraordinary efforts.



The size of the Mini-Games delegations has fallen short of the pre-games estimates.

For example, Rugby 7's has seen the number of participating countries decrease from eight to four. The cancellations include Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Wallis and Futuna, and Tonga.

Women's volleyball is down to five countries. The last summary put out before the Mini-Games showed a total of nine participating countries, but Guam, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Palau dropped out.

Guam's women's volleyball team canceled as a direct result of the recent Korean Air jet crash. The team had been scheduled, along with the other Guam teams, to travel on the doomed flight.

After the crash, several parents quickly changed their minds about their daughters traveling and withdrew them. Since the volleyball team had no alternates, Guam sports officials were forced to withdraw from the competition.

In men's volleyball, there are now only seven competitors, whereas a few weeks ago 12 countries were expected. The dropouts are Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Niue, Kiribati, and Palau. In fact, Palau's Mini-Games contingent dropped from 72 (as of a few weeks ago) to just three.

And Kiribati, which was slated to send a contingent of 27, is apparently sending no contingent at all. Wallis and Futuna, which planned to send 13 people (a Rugby 7's delegation), is also apparently sending no one.

Saipan/Northern Marianas was scheduled to send a delegation of nine, but only three actually came.



Seventeen-year old Dan Botelanga of Nauru set a South Pacific record and won three gold medals Tuesday night in the men's 54-kilogram weight division opener at American Samoa's Lee Auditorium.

He took the gold with a lift of 110-kg in the "clean and jerk" competition, the "snatch" competition with a lift of 82.5-kg, and for overall performance (192.5-kg) in the 54-kg weight division.

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