The National, Friday July 3rd, 2015
IT’S Games on. The 2015 Pacific Games start today.
Over the next 14 days Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea will revel in a celebration of sporting excellence, cultural diversity, national pride and unity.
It is time to walk the walk for Team PNG.
The hard work has been done, the facilities have been built and the teams have arrived.
All that is left to do is compete, play and strive for number one.
With 3000 athletes and officials taking part in 28 sports over the next two weeks, the XV Pacific Games is the largest event, sporting or otherwise, in the country’s history, and the attention of the world will be on us to produce a memorable event. We can and we have.
In 1991, Port Moresby and Lae hosted the previous named South Pacific Games that went down as one of the best ever.
And to cap it off, PNG finished on top.
The Pacific Games are significant not just from a sporting perspective but from a political and regional perspective because it will enable PNG to show the rest of the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, that it has come of age.
All the concerns, worries and problems will be put aside while the people focus on backing their teams and joining in the fun and excitement of being part of history.
To have Britain’s Prince Andrew officiate at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Pacific Games again is a great honour, given the British monarchy’s long association PNG and the Pacific Islands region.
This is the second time the Duke of York will open the Games.
The first occasion was 24 years ago in 1991 when the prince opened the then South Pacific Games at the same stadium.
Prince Andrew arrived in the Government Falcon jet late yesterday afternoon from Cairns, Australia, and was welcomed at Jackson’s Airport by acting Governor-General and Speaker of Parliament Theodore Zurenuoc.
There to welcome him was a small girl who was to have presented flowers to the prince but was prevented from doing so by Foreign Affairs officials who explained that it was protocol not to put flowers on members of the Royal Family.
The small girl must have been very disappointed as this would have been a rare experience for her.
It would have been appropriate of Foreign Affairs to inform the small girl in advance that this popular Pacific greeting is not acceptable insofar as the British Royal Family is concerned.
Aside from the glitches, the Pacific Games will begin with a bang and its enlarged format will ensure that the competition is of a very high standard, especially with the inclusion of Australia and New Zealand, minus their big-time Olympians.
Pacific Games Council chairman Vidhya Lakhan and his team must be commended for bringing these two big sporting nations to our shores to compete with their Pacific neighbours.
As the Australian and New Zealand teams bear their flags and take their positions alongside the others, the Games will be a representation of the complete Pacific family.
The Games will start this morning ahead of tomorrow night’s opening ceremony but the host nation and city can be rest assured that the venues are as good as ready for the competition.
After months of public concern and criticism about the lateness of construction and preparation of the Games venues, the green light was finally given with the opening of these facilities by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last week and this week.
Much to the relief and joy of the Government, the Pacific Games Council and Games Organising Committee as well as the major sponsors, construction work on all venues was completed in time.
The final seal of approval came from Lakhan on Wednesday when he toured the venues, including the Games Village, and commended the Government for a job well done.
“All the venues are excellent and I am sure the athletes of the Pacific will enjoy them all.”
With that the stage is now set for a spectacular opening ceremony tomorrow evening followed by two weeks of exciting sporting rivalry in the true Pacific Games spirit.