22 Apr 2017

Sport: Tonga using judo champs as Pacific Games prep

10:22 am on 22 April 2017

Tonga's hosting of the Oceania Judo Championships next week is being viewed as ideal preparation for when much larger numbers visit for the 2019 Pacific Games.

130 athletes from 12 countries will compete and up to 200 overseas visitors are expected in Nuku'alofa for the two-day event kicking off on Friday.

The President of the Tonga and Oceania Judo Unions, Lennie Nitt, said the hosting agreement was only signed in December and it had been a challenge for organisers to ensure 'Atele Stadium was ready for competition.

"Government have been very supportive with refurbishment soon completed of the stadium up to a good standard and similarly some investments, which also will have a benefit for Pacific Games 2019 coming up later," Mr Nitt said.

There are now plans for Tonga to host an international judo event annually from 2018.

Close to 50 countries from around the world are competing in the Oceania Judo Open in Woolongong.

The 2015 Oceania Judo Open in Australia brought competitors from 50 countries to Woolongong Photo: Facebook / Oceania Judo Open

Mr Nitt said such events would have lasting benefits for sport in the kingdom.

"It takes a lot of manpower and a lot of initiative...opportunity arose and we're a team, or event organising committee, of about 12 people in different areas," he said

"I.T. to marketing to whatever - we're building that team so that in future others might be able to approach the same people for similar developments."

The Oceania Judo Champs will be free entry in Nuku'alofa and will also be streamed online.