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‘Grass roots Olympics’ draws thousands of spectators

By Ephata Samuel PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 20, 2009) – The fourth PNG Games was officially opened at a colourful ceremony at the Sir John Guise stadium in the heart of Port Moresby last night.

More than 600 students from schools around Port Moresby joined 300 children from the Central Province villages of Gaire, Barakau, Tubusereia, Boera, Porebada, Hanuabada and settlements of Port Moresby to welcome the sports men and women, mostly young people from around the country for what has been dubbed the "Grassroots Olympics" in PNG.

Thes tadium was a sight of colour and spectacle when the three hour ceremony began at 5pm with the march-past by all 20 provincial teams led by the Police band.

The feeling of unity and oneness was there in the stadium when the more than 15,000 men, women and children gave standing ovations to every team that marched past.

Nobody was bigger or more important than another when the governors of East New Britain, Oro and Gulf, Member for Kavieng Martin Aini, Member for Nawae in the Morobe Province Timothy Bonga and Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika showed their support of the "Grassroot Olympics" by leading their provincial teams onto the city’s major sporting arena.

"PEACE is shown here tonight and we are as good as anybody else on the planet. I am proud of you all and I am proud to be a Papua New Guinean," Governor-General Sir Paulius Matane exhorted to the applause of the huge crowd.

National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop promised an opening "you will remember for a long while yet".

He kept to his word when hundreds of school children in Port Moresby and youths from the Central Province enthralled dignitaries, athletes, officials and residents of Port Moresby last night.

The formation of the PNG flag and map by the students, the national anthem sung by Sharlene Gawi, the raising of the 20 provincial flags by unseen hands and the modern and traditional hip hop dancing brought goose bumps to the skin.

A 10-year-old young boy tried to show his approval by whistling but he could not get any sound out of his mouth because he was overawed by the occasion.

"Let us stand together now and mark this moment. Let us feel the excitement of the days of competition ahead," declared Minister assisting the Prime Minister and Prime Minister and Minister for Sports, Philemon Embel.

"Let us celebrate these Games in a spirit of peace and friendship upholding the highest sporting values.

"It is my great honour on behalf of our Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare to declare the 4th PNG Games 2000 officially open.’’ Fireworks lit the clear skies of Port Moresby. Competition begins today.

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