AMERICAN SAMOA STILL WANTS TO HOST OCEANIA OLYMPIC BOXING TRIALS

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By Fili Sagapolutele Special to the Pacific Islands Report

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (May 17, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---American Samoa is not giving up on hosting the Oceania Olympic boxing trials, according to Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, president of the American Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (ASABA).

Fagafaga has been engaged in an exchange of letters with Arthur Tunstall, president of the Oceania Amateur Boxing Association (OABA), based in Sydney, over the change of venue for the qualifying games to Canberra.

Letters of Protest also have been filed with the International Olympic Committee.

Fagafaga, who is the vice president of the OABA, maintains that when American Samoa first learned that Samoa pulled out of hosting the trials, he contacted Tunstall and informed him that American Samoa was prepared to host the tournament.

According to Fagafaga, Tunstall told him that he would agree as long as it receives the backing and support of the territorial government. The local government, along with the American Samoa National Olympic Committee, gave their support.

When Tunstall visited the territory on April 27, he met with American Samoa's Lt. Governor Togiola Tulafono and some members of the local boxing association, and was shown possible venues and accommodations to be used for the games.

Before he departed the same day, Tunstall allegedly told reporters that American Samoa will host the qualifying matches. The territory started preparations "setting up corporate sponsors who quickly pledged their support, and preparing to finalize the possible venue and accommodations," said Fagafaga.

But to the surprise of local boxing and government officials, the venue was changed to Canberra, Australia.

Fagafaga tracked down Tunstall in Mexico, where he was attending a meeting of the International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), to confirm the report and find out why the matches were moved to Canberra. The Australian told him that "he was not satisfied with the accommodations."

Fagafaga informed IOC on May 5th that Tunstall wanted the 12 Oceania gold medallists’ names submitted to the international boxing body by May 31, 2000 and decided to award the hosting to Australia. Fagafaga also noted that Tunstall did not have the courtesy to advise the territorial government about the change of venue.

"We have a number of options for not only a venue for the tournament but also accommodations for both athletes as well as officials," Fagafaga pointed out.

"This unilateral decision to hold the tournament in Australia has had a major impact on the entire community of American Samoa, and it affects all organized sports within the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC)," Fagafaga wrote to Tunstall and the IOC.

The American Samoa National Olympic Committee also sent a protest letter to OABA and IABA stating, "Our entire country is ready to support our boxing association in hosting this championship."

Both ASNOC's and Fagafaga's protest letters highlighted the fact that Australia never applied to host the championship, only Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

"Your quick decision in not having the Olympic Boxing Qualification tournament held in American Samoa affects all sportsmen and sportswomen in our country and our entire community," wrote ASNOC president Ben Solaita in a letter dated May 5th to Tunstall, with copies to IOC and IABA.

Tunstall's May 10th reply to Fagafaga's letter gives the impression that he is firm in his decision that Canberra will host the qualifying matches and appears to deny that he ever made any promise that American Samoa was to host the matches.

"I visited the boxing venue proposed and then did a television interview and stated that 'it was quite possible' that the championships could be held in American Samoa, and thanked the Lieutenant Governor on air for his offer to assist," explained Tunstall in his May 10th reply.

Tunstall also pointed out that ASABA is "presently suspended as it has not been financial with IABA for the past sic years" and the local boxing association has not made any attempts to re-affiliate.

He also noted that it was made clear during the meeting with American Samoa officials that "an absolute deadline of 6 June has to be reached to achieve the results of the Oceania selection trials, which must be in the hands of IABA."

"The original dates of 15-20 May proved difficult for your association to arrive at. However, I believe that possibly this could be changed," said Tunstall.

Tunstall said proposed accommodations that he visited "would not be acceptable." Another alternative venue could not be visited due to time constraints on Tunstall's visit. Tunstall said that although the hotel was "quite reasonable" a member of the OABA who stayed there on a previous occasion was not happy with the hotel and wanted another room.

"At this stage I was looking to either New Zealand or Australia, which were trying to raise the necessary finances to host the championships," said Tunstall.

Tunstall said that he alone did not make the decision but instead Keith Walker and Jim Little of the OABA were informed "and both said American Samoa did not meet the criteria needed to host the championship."

Tunstall also said that all entries for the Olympics must be received before June 6. He was also adamant that Fagafaga's proposal to move the trials from May 15-19 to May 21-27 would mean that this deadline could not be met.

When Tunstall spoke to reporters here there was never any mention of the May 15-19 period. Instead it was announced that the trials would be in the territory May 21-27.

Fagafaga fired off a response to Tunstall, dated May 11 and said, "It was very convenient for you to use ASABA's financial standing with IABA to sidestep the issue at hand." Fagafaga said that the association's financial standing was never mentioned during Tunstall's visit.

Despite Tunstall’s claim that the final decision to move the matches to Canberra was agreed upon by other OABA officials, Fagafaga wrote, "I strongly believe that they were influenced by your input, which did not fairly represent what American Samoa has to offer."

Additionally, "I also question how decisions of this magnitude are made without consultation of all OABA executive committee members.

"I (also) bring to your attention that although I was elected in Wellington as vice president of OABA along with Keith Walker, it has apparently been no more than a token position, as not once was I ever consulted about any OABA matters since that election," said Fagafaga.

"American Samoa has been, and is still prepared to host the Oceania Trials if given a fair opportunity," he observed. "I reiterate that the ASABA, the ASNOC and the government and people of American Samoa have been severely impacted by the way this matter has been handled.

"Our position remains very clear. American Samoa was voted the second choice after Samoa. And since Samoa has withdrawn its desire to host the event, unless there is a compelling reason why we would be unable to be the hosting country, American Samoa should be awarded the task," said Fagafaga.

Fagafaga also raised an interesting point. Australia did not bid during the 1999 meeting and "if American Samoa is to be bypassed, shouldn't Tonga be considered since they were the third choice?"

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