Tonga Preparations For 2019 Pacific Games Improving

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Master Plan calls for smaller-scale ‘Walking Games’

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 26, 2016) – The Pacific Games Council is eager to see a Master Plan for the 2019 Pacific Games in Tonga turn into reality, and to make this happen the Tongan Government should swiftly secure contracts for the design and the construction of sporting facilities and venues required, the President of the Pacific Games Council, Vidhya Lakhan said at a Press Conference in Nuku'alofa on Friday, 22 April.

His current visit follows on from their disappointment over the state of Tonga’s preparations to host the 2019 games when they visited Nuku'alofa in February 2015, and discovered that the Master Plan that they had agreed to was barely being activated.

However, on the current visit Vidhya said "the bulk of the Master Plan has been achieved. There are some changes, and we are happy and have given our blessing to the changes."

They supported an addition to the Master Plan for an additional playing field and a warm-up facility at the Police Training Compound, but he recommended that the original Master Plan for Tennis and Lawn Bowls facilities at the nearby Tonga High School be retained.

He also expressed his appreciation for the effort by the Tongan government, in seeking assistance from donor countries. This included:

Difficult issues

Andrew Minogue, the Executive Director of the Pacific Games Council who accompanied Vidhya also elaborated on some of the difficult issues which required amendment to the Master Plan. One was because Nuku’alofa is a small town comparing with the Master Plan that they had for Noumea, and the Port Moresby Games, which are bigger cities than Nuku’alofa.

He said that the solution for Tonga, is that the 2019 Pacific Games will be a "Walking Games". Athletes will be housed in schools around Nuku’alofa, so that they could be able to walk to venues, at Teufaiva Stadium, Tonga High School and Queen Salote Memorial Hall.

Tonga is also to decide what are the 26 sports it would be able to cater for in 2019. There were 30 sports in Port Moresby; a slow decline from 34 in Suva, and 33 in Apia.

Andrew explained that 14 sports must be in the games, but there are sports that it would be a waste of money to build facilities, if only one or two countries would send teams to compete.

While there may be a reduction in the number of sports that athletes could compete in at the Pacific Games, but competition is becoming more intense, since Australia and New Zealand sent teams to Pacific Games for the first time last year in Port Moresby. Both countries will also be sending athletes to compete in more sporting events in the Tonga games.

The Pacific Games also enable athletes to qualify and be able to compete in international competitions.

Vidhya pointed out that 7-a-side rugby which qualifies in the Port Moresby games, enabled them to compete in the Hong Kong 7-a-side.

The 2019 Pacific Games – "Our People, Our Games", could also be known as our Walking Games.

Lord Sevele, the chairman of the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee, pointed out that except for the ‘Atele Stadium and the nearby golf course, the other main sporting venues will be Teufaiva Stadium, and Tonga High School will be within walking distance.

With regards to financing the game, Lord Sevele stressed that Tongans should have national pride and fund the construction of some of the facilities. He said that they would need $25 million to upgrade Teufaiva, and half a million to upgrade the 9-holes golf course at ‘Atele, and about $200,000 to upgrade the Queen Salote Memorial Hall where weight lifting, Tai-kwando and body-building competitions will be held.

Tonga through the Tonga Amateur Sports Association and National Olympic Committee TASANOC applied in April 2012 to host the 2019 Pacific Games, and the Pacific Games Council gave TASANOC the right to host and organise the 2019 Pacific Games.

For TASANOC to plan, organise and deliver the games in 2019 it formed the Audit and Governance Authority, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, and the Pacific Games Organising Committee, chaired by Lord Sevele.

Vidhya was in Nuku’alofa last week to attend a meeting of the 2019 Pacific Games Audit and Governance Authority. Its members include four government representatives, including the chairman, three TASANOC representatives and the president of the Pacific Games Council.

The government plays a leading role in hosting the games as the signatory to the Games Host Contract, and is responsible to underwriting the cost of the games. It has also agreed to provide all the avenues and the facilities that the Organising Committee will need to be able to host the events.

The government also is required to pass legislations, making it possible for taxes to generate funds to finance the Games.

There is optimism that Tonga will be able to host the 2019 games, even though two and a half years before the games are due to start in July 2019, the construction of venues and facilities has yet to start.

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