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Athletes told to represent well

Saturday July 06, 2019 Written by Published in Other Sports
Members of Cook Islands Sevens team after their gym session in Samoa for the Pacific Games.19070513 Members of Cook Islands Sevens team after their gym session in Samoa for the Pacific Games.19070513

THE 2019 Pacific Games have been dubbed “the emergency games” by media outlets around the world, but on the ground in Samoa, it seems as if they have had years to prepare.

 

The country took on the responsibility of hosting the games after original hosts Tonga pulled out at the eleventh hour, stating they could not afford to host the event. With fewer than 16 months to prepare, Samoa was finally declared ready, only days before athletes and officials began arriving.

Local Mika (Mike) Tupuola says the community has played a huge role in preparing the nation. “Each village has been tasked with beautifying and preparing their village for the games,” Tupuola says.

The efforts of the local community are evident. Banners and flags fly high around the main island of Upolu. Various messages welcoming participants from the 24 different island nations competing in the games can be seen almost everywhere.

"This event is huge for our nation. It will bring a much-needed cash injection for local businesses. From hotels and rental businesses, to the stallholders at the markets – everyone stands to benefit greatly," Tupuola says.

The local police force has already begun to block key traffic routes, in anticipation of the impending chaos. Stadiums, fields, and other venues are receiving their final touches before the Games officially begin on Tuesday (CI time).

Roughly 3500 athletes from various island nations across the region will compete in 26 sports from next Monday. There is a general sense of excitement in the air as teams continue to arrive. Proud Samoans have plastered their vehicles, businesses, and even homes with their nation's insignia.

The first lot of athletes from the Cook Islands arrived in Samoa on Thursday.

Deputy prime minister Mark Brown, who was at the airport to farewell the team, said the athletes should take this opportunity to fly the nation’s flag high, and represent the country well at the games.

Cook Islands athletes are settling in well at their accommodation venues. The athletes and their entourages are effectively being billeted, staying in community halls, churches, and even family homes.

The game's official opening ceremony will be held later this evening at Apia Park. Team Cook Islands' programme begins Monday, with football, lawn bowls, and rugby league nines all scheduled to start on the first day of competition.

Our chances of picking up a medal early in the games are high, with the men's lawn bowls competition set to begin on Monday. Taiki Paniani and Aidan Zittersteijn claimed the country's first ever Commonwealth Games medal in Australia last year and will look to replicate that performance once again here in Samoa.

Reporter Liam Ratana (pictured left)is in Samoa to cover our country's efforts at the 2019 Pacific Games. He will be providing regular results, updates, and insights as the games progress.

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