Council: Tonga's Pacific Games withdrawal extremely disappointing and confusing
The Pacific Games Council has described as “extremely disappointing and confusing” Tonga’s withdrawal, now confirmed, from hosting the Pacific Games in 2019.
The council was finally informed yesterday of the decision, attributed to financial concerns, five days after the move was approved by the Tongan government’s cabinet. The council said that it was not consulted on the decision and that no attempt was made by Tongan authorities to seek advice over the issue.
Andrew Minogue, the council’s chief executive, told Radio New Zealand: “We have a contract that we signed in 2012, when our general assembly awarded Tonga the games and there are termination and suspension clauses in the contract.
“So there are procedures that can be activated if one of the parties wishes to not go ahead and there’s a process that needs to be followed and of course in this case it has not been followed…
“I think if finances are a concern of the Tongan government - and I have no reason to doubt that that's a concern for them - the games council would always stand ready to address those concerns where possible by looking at the size and the scope of the games.”
The council had believed preparations were on track for staging the event despite interference by the prime minister in the independent organising committee.
Minogue said: “Tonga hosted the Pacific Mini Games back in 1989 and there's some legacy venues from those games, like the Atele Stadium and Queen Salote Hall.
"Those are very, very good, very, very compact venues that we’re happy to use in 2019.
“That's a very good foundation for a lot of the sports and the Chinese government have committed to building facilities at Tonga High School, the main [Teufaiva] stadium is being upgraded and Tonga is actually on the verge of having all the facilities that they need to run the games.
“And that's why the decision is so confusing and so difficult to understand.”
It had been reported that the Chinese government was ready to pledge upwards of $25 million to help cover costs of new sporting facilities in Tonga. The games were predicted to cost Tonga a total of around $70 million when the event was awarded to the country in 2012.
Vidhya Lakhan, the council’s president, added that the withdrawal is “an extremely disappointing and confusing decision which robs Tonga's youth and future generations of the golden opportunity to receive badly needed sport and recreation facilities.
“Tonga's citizens and businesses will also miss out on the many vital employment and commercial opportunities associated with the heightened economic activity around the Games.”
Tonga’s government said that it remains committed to the success of the 2019 Pacific Games, despite the withdrawal, insisting that it had faced enormous challenges in raising the financial resources to host the games.
It added that it was concerned that the economy could be jeopardised and the stability and ability to deliver its national priorities could be derailed, but said that it would aim to continue strengthening facilities and cultivating sports in the hope that it could host the games in the future.
Minogue said the council’s executive board would hold an emergency meeting next weekend to discuss the way forward, with just 26 months left until the games are due to take place.
The Solomon Islands are scheduled to stage the 2023 Pacific Games after seeing off the challenge of Tahiti in the bidding process. Tahiti also bid unsuccessfully for the 2019 games.