Small island nations are especially vulnerable to the new strict criteria, which states athletes must have resided in their representative nation for a total of five years. Many who identify as Cook Islanders, who have returned home whenever they can, and wish to represent their nation, cannot do so.
The Pacific Games’ governing body is inconsistent in enforcing these rules.
If an athlete's eligibility is challenged by another nation, then the Pacific Games Disputes Tribunal will investigate. Otherwise, they turn a blind eye.
The effects were felt in full force by our swimming team, who had four of our best athletes banned from competing after being challenged by Papua New Guinea. All four were medal chances. All four were set to compete against Papua New Guinea swimmers.
If the Pacific Games council were to strictly enforce its eligibility criteria, many small nations wouldn’t be competing here in Samoa at all.