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  • Conflicting Messaging Over 2019 Pacific Games


    (ATR) Tonga is giving up the right to host the 2019 Pacific Games, or it is not, depending on who you ask.

    Tonga winning the 2019 Pacific Games (Pacific Games Council)
    Dueling news report from the Pacific island country show a potential standoff over whether the Games will be staged. At the heart of the dispute is a report from the World Bank and fears over potential rising costs.

    Pacific Games Council executive director Andrew Minogue told Around the Rings that it would not be commenting on the matter "until we and/or the host NOC of Tonga receive official confirmation from the Tongan Government of what are so far only press reports."

    Earlier, a Tongan cabinet spokesman told Kaniva News that President Akilisi Pohiva was against hosting the event after seeing a World Bank report on its costs. The report stated that the country would face “economic difficulties” after hosting the event.

    "We cannot afford that large amount of money and we do not have the number of people and sport events to use these facilities from time to time to generate funds for the upkeep," the spokesperson said.

    PGC President Vidhya Lakhan said to ATR if Tongan officials confirmed a desire to withdraw from hosting the event, "the executive board will meet and we will issue a statement on the 2019 Games."

    Tongan sport officials were quick to temper the government officials’ proclamation. Lord Sevele, Pacific Games chief executive, told Matangi Tonga that the power to cancel the Games does not come from the government. Instead, only the Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee and Pacific Games Council can make that decision.

    “He may withdraw government support, but it is up to us, the sporting bodies and patriotic Tongans who want to see these facilities for our children and the future of Tonga,” Sevele said. “If we don’t do it now we will never be able to do it!”

    Sevele said that without government support, the Games still should have enough money to be funded. The organizing committee already has received support from Australia, China, and New Zealand through memorandums of understanding. The remaining Tongan contribution was estimated to be only 30 percent of the budget, Sevele said.

    For now, Sevele hopes that the Pacific Games Council will visit Tonga and meet with all parties in an attempt to sort out the impasse.

    “They will come over here and there will be a meeting,” Sevele said. “Their main concern will be, ‘how can we pull together and make it happen.’”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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