Tonga up for challenge of hosting first Pacific Games despite recent criticism

Lord of the ring: Tonga won the rugby league 9s bronze medal on Sunday. Photo by Dave Buller.

Lord of the ring: Tonga won the rugby league 9s bronze medal on Sunday. Photo by Dave Buller.

PORT MORESBY, July 18 – Tonga is ready for the challenge of hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, says the secretary general of the Tongan National Olympic Committee, despite recent calls for the country to pull out of holding the event.

Takitoa Taumoepeau (TGA) dismissed the comments, saying there were some sections of the community that were against holding the Games but preparations were going ahead as planned.

“The president (of Tonga’s Pacific Games Association, Lady Robyn Tu’ivakano) will make that statement at the closing ceremony that Tonga is looking forward to hosting in 2109,” Taumoepeau said.

“Overall, we are working well with the Pacific Games Council and the government.”

In the last few days, there have been calls from the government and the country’s chamber of commerce to pull out of hosting the prestigious event.

Putting the controversy to one side, Taumoepeau there are many things to consider when hosting the Games but he is confident that Tonga will be able to pull off a successful Games in four years’ time.

“One of the first things you have to be conscious of is the size of the Games here,” said Taumoepeau, who is at Port Moresby 2015 as an observer.

“They have 28 sports in their Games – we only have 26. Secondly, the facilities at venues. I think at our Games we are only having a couple of new projects where they’ve built new facilities, but the majority of it is renovations and upgrading of facilities. We will conduct the Games within our means and with the resources we have at home.”

Taumoepeau, who won a bronze medal in cricket at Port Moresby 1991, said there is no way the 2019 Games will be on the same scale as Port Moresby 2015.

“I can say that in our bid we kind of have a thing about a walking Games,” he said.“What we’re proposing, or what we plan for in 2019, is just concentrating on two main sporting clusters. So we can work something around those kinds of principals.”

Those words were echoed by the the executive director for the Pacific Games Council, Andrew Minogue (AUS).

He said Tonga needed to be modest in its expectations for what the Games can do for the country.

“These facilities in PNG, they’re tremendous and they obviously do fit a requirement of this country going forward, but that’s not the template that has to be used for other countries,” Minogue said.

“I think that’s a real key message that we have to try and get to our future hosts, not just Tonga but the ones who are going to start putting their hand up for 2023.”

Taumoepeau said every Games had to have its own uniqueness and that Tonga was ready to show its true colours to the Pacific and the world.

As for the opening and closing ceremonies, he said Tonga would look to make a statement to the world about its culture and the country.

“We have a king and a queen. We don’t have to fly in a prince to open our Games. So, that’s one uniqueness,” Taumoepeau said.

“We still remain the only constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific. So, we are proud of it. We will work around those kind of concepts.”

The 2019 Games will be held in the Tongan capital, Nukuʻalofa.

By James Cowling, Games News Service

GNS jc/jl

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