Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (April 1) – The idea that the 2007 South Pacific Games may end up a big embarrassment has got to be a joke. It has to be, otherwise the government's credibility is lost irrecoverably, and Samoa becomes the laughing stock of the world.

According to the president of Guam's National Olympics Committee Rick Blas, Samoa's preparations for the games scheduled for 25 August-8 September, are nowhere near ready.

"As a host country, you cannot be six months out and still be in the planning phase," Blas said.

Last year, he visited Apia and had a good look at the preparations. Two weeks ago, he visited again and found that not much has changed.

On his return to Guam, he told the sports federations there that Samoa was far from ready to host the Games.

"What we saw last year and what I saw last week, there was no difference, except for one incomplete building -- not sure if it's for basketball or volleyball." (Saturday Observer, 31 March 2007.)

In addition, many important services such as "technical manuals, on-site medical arrangements, venues, transportation arrangement, athletes' lodging arrangement and meal arrangements, to name a few," are also not ready.

He has therefore advised Guam's sports organisations to "go back to your athletes and let them decide what they want to do."

From the reports, the general feeling is that Guam is no longer keen to send a delegation to the Games in Apia. What happens if other countries end up deciding along the same lines?

Sure, we tend to shut our minds to reports we don't like. But today we must think seriously about these ones since the idea of not being able to host these Games successfully is rather too shameful to be ignored.

Indeed, contemplating the notion that some countries may pull out for the same reasons now troubling Guam is just as humiliating.

We say this because four years ago when Samoa won the hosting bid, government officials boasted that the games would be the best ever. And so preparations for them into which millions of Tala have been poured, began.

Now six months before the games are scheduled to begin, their facilities’ and venues' readiness are questioned. So that despite government's assurances that all would be well, the dismal signs are hardly convincing.

At this point, construction of SCOPA's hall at Vaivase to serve as one of the accommodation venues is moving ahead as planned, despite some nagging snags.

President Salote Lesa, however, has assured that the multi-purpose hall capable of sleeping 2,000 people will be completed in July, in time for the Games.

Similarly, roads around Apia are a mess; they dearly need upgrading which means more funds and hard work are needed. Where are the funds coming from? Ask the government.

But perhaps the road problem might have been avoided hadn't last year's general elections stepped in the way.

It all started when the government felt it was imperative that two sets of roads were financed and built at the same time - one for the Games, and the other for the elections.

The latter of course was to help village people make the best from their plantations.

Dedicated just before the elections in March, they in turn helped return the government to power in a landslide victory.

Well-planned strategy, as you all know, always works wonderfully.

As for so-called mismanagement and corruption in high places, well, they shall only be thrown open for all to see if the Games up ahead do not achieve the success they deserve.

So let's hope the grumbling from Guam is just a storm in a teacup. Let's hope all other countries think of sports as their biggest adventure, and a worthy challenge.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

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