The National, Friday November 8th, 2013
NOW that the Kumuls rugby league World Cup campaign has ended rather disastrously, Papua New Guinea should fully focus on its preparations for the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby.
With 20 months left before the official opening of the Games at the refurbished Sir John Guise Stadium, hopefully by Prince William or another member of the Royal Family, time is of the essence.
But what has actually been achieved so far?
Very little, according to Pacific Games Council president Vidhya Lakhan, who visited Port Moresby last week to check on the progress of our preparations.
Lakhan is quite concerned that some of the venues may not be completed in time for the sporting extravaganza.
“We have lost a lot of time and can’t afford any more delays.
“Stop procrastinating, let’s get on with the job at hand,” he said before departing last Sunday.
It seems our Pacific Games Authority chairman Kostas Constantinou does not share the PGC chief’s concern and calmly predicted that preparations were on schedule for the Games to be staged in the nation’s capital.
He dispelled rumours that the country could lose its hosting rights if its Games preparations did not meet PGC expectations within the next three months.
We understand that Lakhan did ask the various Games committees to come up with a ‘Plan B’ in the event that some of the venues, including the Games Village at the University of PNG Waigani campus, were not completed in time.
We share Lakhan’s concern that work has hardly started at two of the major Games venues – the Games Village and the Boroko Sports Ground, which will cater for softball, netball, rugby, cricket and lawn bowls.
These projects were announced by the Government at the beginning of the year but it seems that construction work will not start until the New Year.
It would be comforting if the Games organisers could provide a regular update of the progress of works.
The only word so far is from Mel Donald, the deputy chairperson of the Venue Infrastructure, Equipment Committee (VIEC), who said time was against them.
Indeed, time will become their worst enemy if construction is further delayed.
The only construction project that is progressing well is the Taurama Aquatic Centre, while work seems to have stalled at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
Interestingly, while the PGC president was checking on our preparations, Sports and Pacific Games Minister Justin Tkatchenko was on the other side of the globe spearheading a failed rugby league campaign.
No doubt, the minister will be fully briefed on his return.
Despite an assurance by Lakhan that the Games will still be held in Port Moresby, come what may, Papua New Guineans need to be convinced that we will not face a similar situation to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, where major venues were not completed in time, which resulted in great shame and embarrassment for the host nation.
Come 2015, PNG will be in the spotlight of the Asia/Pacific region with a booming economy spurred by the full production of its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
Our gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to double by then and money should not be an issue as there should be lots of it to spread around.
With that in mind, our smaller Island neighbours will be expecting a massive welcome and hospitality that will be unmatched in Pacific Games history.
We cannot afford to disappoint our Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian brothers and sisters.
We just have to put on the best and biggest show for them, and ensure that they are extremely well looked after during their brief stay in Port Moresby.
Much is at stake for the country if the Games organisers and contractors, as well as the relevant stakeholders, do not lift their game now.
Furthermore, all relevant stakeholders, including government departments, should take heed of Lakhan’s advice and rally behind the organising committee to support them in delivering the best Pacific Games ever.