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By Helen Greig

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 30) – Nearly NZ$10 million [US$6.8 million] is to be spent on new sporting facilities in the Cook Islands over the next four years.

This was revealed yesterday in the master plan for the 2009 South Pacific Mini Games. The plan includes a budget of NZ$15 million [US$10.2 million], most of which will be spent on new sports facilities to host the ten-day event.

About $1.5 million [US$1 million] will be spent on equipment for sports centers and national federations as well as for the Games Organizing Committee.

The committee has an administration budget of $2.75 million [US$1.8 million] with $1 million going towards preparing the Cook Islands team for the event.

The master plan proposes the construction of three vaka sports centers and two outer island sports centers in Aitutaki and Manihiki.

The next Manea Games - an acronym for the traditional names of Mangaia, Aitutaki, Mitiaro, Atiu and Mauke - are to be hosted by Aitutaki, while the next Purapura Games will be in Manihiki.

The South Pacific Mini Games have so far been hosted by Honiara, Solomon Islands (1981), Rarotonga, Cook Islands (1985), Nukualofa, Tonga (1989), Port Vila, Vanuatu (1993), Pago Pago, American Samoa (1997), Kingston, Norfolk Island (2001) and Koror, Palau this year.

In April 2004 the South Pacific Mini Games council voted to award the right to host the 2009 SPMG to the Cook Islands 28-15 over the bid from Wallis & Futuna.

In 2009 the Cooks will host about 2,500 athletes from 22 countries competing in 15 sporting codes.

One of the key objectives of the games is to create NZ$50 million [US$34 million] worth of economic benefit from hosting the games, according to the master plan.

Another aim is to leave legacies like the sports facilities and an enhanced tourism image for the Cooks.

Tereora National Stadium was constructed as a result of the 1985 games hosted in Rarotonga. It is hoped most of the new facilities, making up NZ$9.75 million [US$6.6 million] of the budget, will be ready to operate by December 2007.

Seven program committees will be appointed under the GOC to cover facilities, transport, sport, accommodation, ceremonies, protocol, and support services.

A tentative date has been set for the games for July 15-23, 2009, depending on when other major world sporting events fall.

Last week the Cook Islands National Sports and Olympic Games Committee confirmed the appointment of Nooroa "Bim" Tou as chief executive of the South Pacific Mini Games board. Its members include secretary general David Lobb, treasurer Adi Narayan, Prime Minister Jim Marurai, minister for sports Ngamau Munokoa and minister of finance Dr. Terepai Maoate.

January 6, 2006

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