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Monday 12 September 2011 | Published in Regional


Rain and a Rugby World Cup match made it an interesting Pacific Games closing ceremony for the remaining 22 members of Team Cook Islands in New Caledonia.

Returning weightlifter and games silver medallist Sam Pera Jnr was given the honour of flag bearer for the Cook Islands and the team set out to the racecourse near the main bay of Anse Vata for the event.

But rain caused confusion about the specific programme of the closing ceremony although waiting athletes were entertained for nearly three hours by talented New Caledonian dancers.

As well as seeking shelter from the impending rain, the team wanted to personally thank Noumea for hosting a great and memorable games. Lead by chef de mission George George, the sounds of Cook Islands drumbeats drew in a crowd of athletes for the short presentation.

Dressed in traditional costumes St Josephs students and fine Cook Islands ambassadors Tiare Enoka and Melbourne Tomokino warmed up the crowd with a wonderful chant and drum dance.

The youngsters, who were selected by Team New Caledonia as supporters of the host team, danced their hearts out and put the crowd in celebration mode.

Tomokino then presented an ornamental carved hook to the New Caledonian team chef de mission before another round of drumming announced the ura piani led by the youngsters.

In search of shelter from the rain, the local team joined around 1000 New Caledonian locals in Anse Vata who were cheering on the French rugby team playing Japan.

The Cook Islands team cheered on local boy Ryan Nicholas in the Japanese team who despite a fantastic game were rammed by the French in the last 20 minutes of the game to win 48-21.

The French win put the New Caledonian crowd in a great mood to cheer on the Pacific Games parade through the town.

Led by flag bearer Sam Pera Jnr, the Cooks shared mini Cook Islands flags with children and thanked the people of New Caledonia for a fantastic time all in the rain.

The customary lowering of the Pacific Games flag and extinguishing of the game flame was all part of the formal proceeding of the closing ceremony.

The ceremony included a show by the hosts of the 2015 Pacific Games, Papua New Guinea, plus dancing by New Caledonian and French dancers and singers.

Fireworks across the bay wrapped up the Pacific Games for Cook Islands athletes who returned home over the weekend with 12 medals 2 golds, 6 silvers and 4 bronze medals.