PNG Games a fete of sports and unity


IF there is anyone who doubts the power of sport to unite Papua New Guineans, they certainly have not seen or heard of the Kumuls’ roaring success at the National Football Stadium these past weekends.
Besides making it three from three in their pool games, the Kumuls have also succeeded beyond, perhaps, their own expectations in drawing the Port Moresby crowds with others following them on radio or television across PNG.
Papua New Guineans love sports and in fact any occasion that gives them a reason to get together and relish the spectacle of their own traditional bilas, the beating of kundu drums and a feast of mumu after that.
The Kumuls are now raring to take on England in Melbourne on Sunday and every tackle or ball played will be followed keenly on TV over here.
Winning a game or tournament may be a momentary thrill but the longer-lasting impact of sports in general is undeniable.
The Rugby League World Cup may have stolen the limelight from our own national grassroots Olympics that kicks off this Saturday at Kimbe, West New Britain.
Unfortunately, a number of teams have withdrawn from the event and that is a shame.
Granted the tough economic situation in the country is such that provincial governments would be forced to concentrate all their limited resources on basic necessities like keeping health centres and schools operating and paying workers.
However, we have had two to three years to prepare for the games since the closing ceremony of the last PNG Games at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium in Lae.
West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel took the baton from his then Morobe counterpart Kelly Naru and invited all to sail or fly across to Kimbe for the 2016 games.
However, in November 2016, the country was tied up with the Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup so the PNG Games had to be pushed back – to March 2017.
There was yet another deferral because of the impending threat of torrential rain in Kimbe coupled with the incomplete sporting infrastructure.
It was then agreed that November would be the ideal month to host the Games as any further deferral would jeopardise planning for the next Games in Mendi, Southern Highlands.
That being the case, provincial sports offices had ample time to prepare their athletes and, importantly, raise money and pool other resources to get teams to Kimbe.
That was not the case for some and when the event drew nearer, already a number of teams have withdrawn.
That naturally has not gone down well with athletes and officials who have been hard at training and raising personal levies to make the trip.
Mt Hagen District Sports Association, for instance, has come out strongly against the Western Highlands provincial sports council’s withdrawal and blamed those in authority of failing to plan well.
Western, Hela and New Ireland have already announced their withdrawal from the Games. One or two other teams have not confirmed their attendance and we may yet get news of their withdrawal before the opening ceremony on Saturday.
This is unfortunate as the PNG Games should be an event attended by all provincial teams.
The biennial event draws all 22 provinces of the country together in one location.
It is great moment of national unity and pride.  It is a celebration of the achievements of the young people especially.
Even athletes living with disabilities are given the opportunity to showcase their talents.
Furthermore, the Games provide for some rural youth a lifetime opportunity to travel and meet other people and learn new ideas.
It is not only a sporting spectacle to create momentary thrills.  The gold, silver and bronze medals are only tokens of the valuable life lessons athletes learn along the way to success and the limelight.
Values such as hard work, commitment and teamwork go beyond the athletics track, the boxing ring or the soccer pitch.
These are values and life skills young people should be given at every available opportunity such as through sports.
Let’s hope for a better turnout at Mendi in 2019.