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SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, June 24) - New Caledonia is sending a
hefty 520-strong delegation, its largest ever, to the 12th South Pacific Games
due to begin in Fiji on Saturday.

The delegation includes 450 athletes covering nearly all sports
represented at the Games, according to New Caledonia Territorial Sports And
Olympic Committee (CTOS) President, Eric Gay.

Gay told told RFO's Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie that the youngest
competitor is 13-year-old Alexia Peres, who is among the women's golf
contingent. The oldest is nearing 60. He is Jean-Pierre Rivière, who will
compete in archery.

Forty years after the first South Pacific Games, held in Suva in
1963, New Caledonia is taking part with one goal: to win.

"From the onset, we have instructed our leagues to send the
best of the best. But it will be tough, because Fiji is very strong", Gay

Many athletes have thoroughly prepared for the Games and have
been training in metropolitan France, others in Australia.

However, the first casualty has been announced on Monday: the
bodybuilding team will have to do without one of its members, New Caledonia's
2003 champion Jérôme Elies.

At the weekend, he was suspended for two years after a parcel
containing prohibited substances was found with his name on it. The parcel was
believed to contain steroids.

New Caledonia's bodybuilding association chairman Jean Firmin
Guyon, said he was "disappointed," because Elies was "definitely
a gold medal potential."

"But now he has to face the consequences for his actions. I
have repeatedly told our athletes that we are amateurs and that we don't need
this kind of products," Guyon said.

The largest delegation is Fiji's, the host country, with over
600 athletes.

French Polynesia will also send a very large contingent of more
than 400 to the Suva Games.

All in all, including also Wallis and Futuna, it is anticipated
the 2003 South Pacific Games will gather over a thousand representatives from
the three French Pacific territories, about a fifth of the total number of
athletes from the 22 Pacific island countries and territories.

Papua New Guinea, which holds the Pacific Island’s largest
population of more than five million is expected to send a 370-strong team to

During the Games,  a significant cultural and musical
program is also in the pipeline.

Several bands will perform in Suva and other towns of Fiji.

This includes New Caledonia's We Ce Ca,  Vhirin and OK Ryos,
who will join choreographer Richard Digoué (also from New Caledonia) who has
been in residence in Suva for the past few weeks.

Later this week, during the Games, Digoué is scheduled to
present a new show, especially created for the Games.

French Polynesia is sending its famous Fenua band.

Wallis and Futuna's Nuku Alofa band will also perform.

As part of events organised by Suva's Alliance française, some
eleven public concerts will be held in Suva and five other towns of Fiji.

The general theme is "Travel through the music of the
Pacific Islands".

On the cultural side, from July 1 to July 31, New Caledonia's
Tjibaou cultural centre will also bring to Suva's Alliance an exhibition of its
Pacific artworks.

June 25, 2003

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