PHOTO: The Chef de Missions from 13 countries with the Games CEO, Falefata Matatia and the Pacific Games Council Secretary, Andrew Minogue
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 01 MARCH 2019: Four months to the Pacific Games, Chef de Mission from 13 Pacific Islands are impressed with the host country’s preparations and have all agreed that Samoa is more than ready to host the Games in July 2019.
With the Pacific Games Council Secretary, Andrew Minogue, the chef de missions met in Samoa this week to have a first-hand inspection exactly one year since Samoa stepped in to host the games when Tonga pulled out.
At the end of their meeting, they called a press conference to update the media on the status of Samoa’s preparations and hear the feedback from the island countries representatives.
The Pacific Games Samoa Chief Executive Officer Falefata Hele Matatia said that apart from Chef de Missions inspecting sports venues and accommodations, they also addressed logistical issues and he is happy with the outcome.
Accommodation is one of the issues uppermost in the discussion. Tahiti’s delegation visited two weeks ago and voiced concern over the athletes being accommodated at the Methodist church Faleula compound.
Falefata said other countries welcome the idea of their teams and officials being accommodated in one place.
Food, the style and variety of food was also on the agenda, and Samoa is conscience of some athletes’ diet and will comply with it.
Papua New Guinea’s Chef de Misison Emma Waiwai, who was on the organising committee for the Pacific Games in 2015 is comfortable with what Samoa has done.
“I am very comfortable that Samoa will deliver, and Samoa has hosted past games, so this is nothing to Samoa,” said Waiwai.
The same positive note was voiced by New Caledonia, Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand and Tonga.
Christophe Dabiu of New Caledonia said they are sending 341 athletes who will compete in 24 sports.
“Judo, Swimming, Track and Field Events are the main ones we expect to do well in,” said Dabiu.
Dabiu was in charge of the village where athletes were hosted in the 2011 Pacific Games and said there will always be issues within the villages.
“What is important to me is that all the athletes will be together, and this is in the Oceania spirit. It will be very good for the exchange of athletes in Polynesia and the Pacific way,” said Dabiu.
Netina Latu of Tonga commended Samoa for many reasons especially in putting together the games at such a short time frame.
“I am proud how Samoa has taken on this task, such short time frame. I was an administrator for the Tonga team in the 2007 games hosted here in Samoa and they did a fantastic job then. They had the capacity, manpower and support to perform once again,” said Latu.
Tonga is bringing in 230 athletes for 21 sports, but the number could be reduced depending on the requirements of the Federation.
Kristy Hill of New Zealand said they will bring in 80 athletes to compete in 7 sports plus 40 officials.
As for the accommodation, they are excited that athletes get to experience traditional village setting and it’s an opportunity for the athletes to connect with Pacific brothers and sisters.
Samoa is fielding 800 athletes and officials, but the number is expected to drop according to Samoa’s Chef de Mission Nynette Sass.
“Because Samoa had to refurbish the sports venues, Team Samoa had to look for alternative space to train and prepare their teams, and we are grateful for the opportunity for our athletes to be trained by professionals in China,” said Sass.
She is aware of the tough competition against teams such as New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
Overall, the Games CEO, Falefata Matatia said the feedback from the visiting Chef de Missions have been nothing but praise for Samoa’s preparations for the games come July.