The National, Monday July 20th, 2015
THE XV Pacific Games are over and Papua New Guinea got the fairy tale ending it was looking for by finishing on top of the medal tally with 88 gold medals – 29 clear of New Caledonia.
It is mission accomplished for Team PNG.
Months and in some cases years of planning, training and hoping has paid off.
These Games will go down as the best yet simply because it was the biggest in terms of money and resources expanded on it.
The National Government footed the K1.2 billion that was channelled into building and redeveloping the capital city’s major sporting facilities.
Although the win was comfortable it was nowhere near the 120 gold medal blitz put on by the 2011 hosts, New Caledonia, but even the Game’s leading country in terms of the overall number of events won in the competition’s 52 year history must acknowledge that the region’s sleeping giant has finally woken from its slumber and 2015 was the first opportunity it had to flex its muscles.
There is more to come.
Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said in the months leading into the Games that the nation is entering into a sporting revolution that will change the way PNG is viewed by the Pacific region, Asia and the rest of the international community.
Most thought he was only paying lip service and talking using hyperbole as a way to promote the Government’s achievements and efforts.
But the success of the Games and the fact that the event was run professionally and with no major problems speaks volumes for the management and ability of the organisers and all the supporting stakeholders who had a part to play in PNG’s third time hosting of the sports extravaganza.
The Government took on the challenge and despite being pressed for time they delivered on the promises made in 2009 at the Pacific Mini Games in the Cook Islands.
The past two weeks have been an amazing experience for fans and athletes and a valuable and unforgettable time for the people whose sweat, toil and effort have made the Games possible.There is no doubt that the visiting national teams were generally in awe of the Games and how it was run and the scale of the preparations.
The next hosts of the Pacific Games, Tonga, face an uphill battle to equal let alone surpass the Port Moresby Games.
But the Pacific Games first and foremost has not about who can win the most medals or who has the biggest and best facilities or who can put on the best show.
Although important to the occasion and a legitimate talking point, the Games has always been about participation, camaraderie, getting to know our Pacific brethren through the unifying cause of sporting endeavour and striving for success. But while those ideals will continue to guide the Pacific Games Council and the way it manages the Games franchise one cannot deny the social and political impact on the host nation.
In his speech at the closing ceremony, Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio stated for the world to hear that the country was ready and willing to take on bigger challenges on the sporting landscape, the foremost of which would be to host a Commonwealth Games in 2026.
Whether this is rhetoric or a serious intention remains to be seen.
Nevertheless it would be a massive undertaking for a Pacific Island nation but Papua New Guinea is currently riding a wave of confidence highlighted by the success of the last two weeks and indeed borne from the effort and energy that went into making the 15th edition of the Pacific Games a memorable one.
Port Moresby has a set of world class facilities as Pacific Games Council Vidhya Lakhan stated in his remarks at the Sir John Guise Stadium last Saturday night, and it would not be outside the realms of possibility for a country like Papua New Guinea to be able to host a major world event.
The national capital district is already scheduled to host the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and that alone will see an unprecedented number of the world’s leaders assemble here for several days of discussion and interaction.
The world’s eyes will be firmly fixed on PNG.
The ball is still in our court.