The National, Tuesday June 30th, 2015
THERE will be those in Papua New Guinea that will play down New Zealand soccer coach Anthony Hudson’s concerns that the Pacific Games will be played in “crazy” substandard conditions.
Some might even dismiss his recent statements in the New Zealand media as those of a man not fully appreciative of the time and effort put into the Games or the significance of the event to the country in terms of the money expanded and the political will that
was needed to drive the event.
But those are considerations for the corridors of power and the board rooms where decisions about funding, contract awarding, project management and all the aspects of getting an event of this magnitude up off the ground are made.
What Hudson, who arrived yesterday, is concerned about, indeed what he is paid to worry about, is getting his side a berth at the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
And according to him that task has been made unnecessarily difficult by what he claims is the confusion in what venues will be used and the crammed scheduling that will see his side play five matches in 10 days.
One cannot accuse him of shooting from the hip or making outrageous statements about the issue because he has actually been to see the venues.
It is true that initially soccer was to be played at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium but that plan was shelved months ago when it became apparent that the venue in Konedobu would not be ready on time.
In fact the Games closing ceremony was to have been staged at the town stadium but that plan was also put aside with the closer to be held at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
Before we take umbrage to what a foreigner is saying about the Games preparation, let us remember that this event is an international one and therefore will be judged by those standards and not Papua New Guinean standards.
That is not to say that things are not done in a professional and acceptable level in this country because they are, and for the most part every effort is made to ensure that that is the case.
But one must take heed of the appraisal from a person who is qualified to pass such comment.
It maybe that Hudson’s concerns turn out to be minor glitches in an otherwise successful soccer tournament over the coming weeks but one cannot help but think he is on to something and unlike other coaches has actually chosen to make his sentiments known.
The Sir John Guise Stadium will host a number of events aside from the athletics competition and despite no one raising a voice on whether the venue is suitable for sports like rugby league and rugby union it was clear from the test event, the Queensland Cup Round 14 clash between the PNG Hunters and the Souths Logan Magpies earlier in the month brought up some areas that were a worry – for a coach.
The size of the in-goal areas is barely the regulation five metres deep and this shortcoming was addressed by extending it a further 5m with the use of synthetic grass covering which maybe allowable for soccer matches but does not offer much in the way of protection to players in the act of diving to score tries.
Apart from this critical assessment coming from soccer, Games organisers have been kept busy in the remaining days before the July 4 opening with a rash of official “openings”.
Starting with the Bisini Sports complex last Friday, the Aquatic Centre on Sunday and the Games Village yesterday, officialdom has been working overtime to put its mark on the event.
There is no doubt the Games preparations have reached a crescendo and now all that remains is for the athletes to take to the courts, pools, fields and stages to do their thing.
Hudson’s concerns might be seen like crying long after the horse has already bolted from the stable but if he is vindicated with complaints from other competing sides or injuries and other casualties attributable to substandard facilities than organisers including the Games’ chief underwriter, the National Government, will be left red-faced.