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Team Cook Islands impresses at Pacific Games opening ceremony

Monday 20 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Pacific Games 2023, Sports


Team Cook Islands impresses at Pacific Games opening ceremony
Team Cook Islands chef de mission Mark Short and his daughter Natalia Short play the drums during the Pacific Games opening ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands on Saturday night. Picture: CISNOC/23111909

Team Cook Islands delivered a captivating performance at the official opening ceremony of the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Saturday night (Cook Islands time).

Amidst the vibrant beats of the live drum ensemble led by chef de mission Mark Short and his team, Cook Islands showcased its rich culture to the Pacific via a live broadcast and to the cheering spectators in attendance.

The team was led by flagbearers Julieanne Westrupp (Julz) and Stephen Willis.

Westrupp expressed her enthusiasm for the games, stating that having attended all Pacific Games since 2003, this year’s edition stands out as the most exceptional.

The president of the Cook Islands Touch was particularly impressed by the unified presence of athletes from all corners of the stadium.

“Having athletes seated after coming was nice too. I think Solomons topped it off by acknowledging their former athletes and by announcing their history in sports. That was amazing to listen to.”

The enthusiastic spectators in the grandstand further enhanced the experience for the athletes, making them feel truly valued and appreciated.

“I will always have a special place in my heart for the Solomons,” Westrupp said.

The special occasion was made even more memorable by Westrupp’s opportunity to share it with her daughter, Tashi Kopu, niece Rima Browne, and nephew Tamarua Payne.

Minister for Sports Vaine (Mac) Mokoroa, who has been in Honiara supporting the team, lauded the Solomon Islands for organising a remarkable opening ceremony that etched itself into the nation’s legacy and history.

“With the whole region looking at the march of athletes and officials from 24 member countries, the scenery was just awesome.”

Mokoroa commended Team Cook Islands for setting the bar with their well-choreographed 30-second cultural performance, which evoked immense pride among Cook Islanders.

“All praise to the coordinating committee of the Solomons Pacific Games for incorporating culture in the games. Credit also goes to our CDM (Short) and his family for this performance.”

Mokoroa highlighted the significance of a two-day meeting held prior to the opening for Sports Ministers and Senior Officials to chart the future of sports in the region.

A key emphasis during the meeting was the reaffirmation of support for sports as a powerful tool in addressing non-communicable diseases, mental and physical well-being, education, social cohesion, national identity, and providing a viable alternative to anti-social behaviour.

“Our heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Solomon Islands and the people of Solomons and more so to our volunteers and caterers at our Kuki’s Village.”

Furthermore, Mokoroa revealed that Cook Islands is in the process of bidding to host the 2029 Pacific Mini Games, with the next PMG scheduled to be held in Palau in 2025, followed by the Pacific Games in Tahiti in 2027.

“There are other competing countries so we just have to play our cards right.

“The team is in high spirit and I certainly would like to thank all of our people for their prayers and words of encouragement to our athletes, coaches and management.”

Mokoroa acknowledged the heat as the biggest challenge, with many players still adjusting to the conditions.

“We can compare this weather as going up to Penrhyn and playing outdoors in the 2pm heat ... but nothing that we can’t adapt to.”

Yesterday, Team Cook Islands participated in tennis, swimming, weightlifting, basketball and football. The events were underway when this edition went to print last night.

  • Losirene Lacanivalu in Honiara, Solomon Islands