Pacific Games | SPORTS

Tonga’s Withdrawal ‘Not Official’

There is no official confirmation from the Tongan Government that they have withdrawn their support from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games in Nukua’lofa, says the Games council. Speaking to SUNsports
16 May 2017 11:00
Tonga’s Withdrawal ‘Not Official’
Pacific Games Council president Vidhya Lakhan.

There is no official confirmation from the Tongan Government that they have withdrawn their support from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games in Nukua’lofa, says the Games council.

Speaking to SUNsports yesterday Pacific Games Council president Vidhya Lakhan said they would only take action once they receive Tonga’s withdrawal in writing.

“Right now it’s only a rumour or an act of mischief,” Lakhan said.

“We’ve contacted our people in Tonga and they are surprised at the report since their Prime Minister is away overseas.”

The report of Tonga’s withdrawal was highlighted by Kaniva News indicating that a spokesman for the Tongan Cabinet said that Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has decided to save the country from a costly mistake.

The spokesman said Pohiva was made aware last week of a World Bank report which said the kingdom would face economic difficulties if it hosted the Games.

The decision comes just weeks after the Chinese government agreed to pay more than TP$57 (FJ$51.3) million for new sporting facilities.

The spokesman said Tonga would still continue renovations and maintenance of sporting facilities to prepare its athletes for the Games. This included the Teufaiva national stadium, Tonga High School complex, Atele Indoor Stadium and the golf course.

The spokesperson said Cabinet considered the fact that Tonga had to follow the requirements for the upkeep of the sporting facilities after the Games.

“It is required the government must have an annual budget of 12 percent of the total cost of the expenses used for the construction of the facilities for their maintenance and repairs every year after 2019,” the spokesperson said.

“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.”

 

FOREIGN FUNDING

It is not clear what effect the Tongan government’s decision will have on the tens of millions of dollars of foreign funding earmarked for the Games. The Chinese government has agreed to pay for a $US24.8 (FJ$52.35) million sports complex at Tonga High School for the 2019 Games.

The sports complex preparatory works are scheduled for August 2017, with construction expected to start in October 2017 and be completed by May 2019. Other works confirmed for the Games include the upgrade of the Teufaiva Stadium, funded through a development initiative by the New Zealand Government. Papua New Guinea had also offered financial support for the games.

 

BITTER WRANGLING

The Tongan government’s decision follows weeks of often bitter wrangling between the Prime Minister, Games organising committee CEO and former PM Lord Sevele and the Pacific Games Council. Last year Pohiva sent a letter to Lakhan saying Tonga was prepared to withdraw all funding and support for the Games if an impasse involving him and Lord Sevele was not resolved.

In October last year the Council said it expected Tonga to remain as host of the 2019 Pacific Games after Pohiva told parliament he doubted Tonga would be ready in time.

 

NEXT STEP

Lakhan said if they receive a official confirmation then the Pacific Games executive board members are going to meet and discuss the next course of action.

‘We might call for interest from other island nations or whatever the board decides but for now we’ll leave it at that,” he said.

It is understood that big island nations like Fiji, Guam, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Samoa and Papua New Guinea could step in if Tonga withdraws. Also, SUNsports was told that Tahiti would be a frontrunner since they have missed out on hosting the Pacific Games.

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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