Sport: Australia, NZ given green light to join Pacific Games
The Pacific Games Council votes to allow Australia and New Zealand to compete in up to four sports at next year's Pacific Games in Port Moresby, in the first step towards creating a Continental Games.
Australia and New Zealand will be invited to participate at next year's Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea after a revised proposal was approved by Council members last week.
The two countries will be able to enter teams in taekwondo, weightlifting, sailing and rugby sevens, in the first step towards an expanded Continental Games.
The Executive Director of the Pacific Games Council, Andrew Minogue, told Vinnie Wylie things went smoothly, after a similar proposal was voted down last year.
ANDREW MINOGUE: There was pretty well a consensus amongst all of the countries there that we should have a mechanism to invite Australia and New Zealand. The Memorandum of Understanding agreement, that was delivered at the Oceania National Olympic Committee meeting in Guam, was endorsed by all the participants and then it really just came down to a debate as to how we're going to do this in 2015 - not whether we we should do it - that was all agreed, having an extra year to digest some of the issues and discuss then with their national federations and stakeholders back home within their own countries.
VINNIE WYLIE: How certain are you that all four sports will be taken up by those countries or is there a chance that some of the sports, or some of the countries in some of the sports [won't] participate?
AM: The invitation will be issued to the Australian and New Zealand Olympic Committees, so we're not going to deal with this as a sort of liaising directly with those sports federations. We're going to do everything we can to make sure that the invitations are accepted and particularly in the sports that might have the opportunity now to use the invitation process to co-brand their event as an Oceania Championship taking place during the Pacific Games. For the Pacific countries it takes away some of those pressures that they often face in a Pacific Games year: do we go to the Games or do we go to the Oceanias? The money is tight and travel is expensive within the region so when we can bring the two events together, as we're probably now on the path to doing, it's going to make it easier actually for Pacific countries to really make a commitment to the Games and I think from a competition perspective we do expect that having those athletes there, from Australia and New Zealand, will lift the standards. You've got to consider that this is a year before the Olympics - the weightlifting event has already been recognised by the International Federation as a formal qualifying event for Rio, so that's going to be good for all the athletes.
VW: At last year's Mini Games in the sailing everyone competed together but we had medals for the Oceania Championship, including Australia and separately the Mini Games, which just included the Pacific countries. Can we expect something similar next year?
AM: No, the invitation is to the athletes to actually participate in the Games. They're just like any other athlete or country that's participating in the event.
VW: So this is very much towards moving into line with a lot of the other regions in the world to have a Continental Games to try and stay relevant?
AM: Yeah, and to get the recognition from both the International Olympic Committee and the International Federations that, in the Oceania Region, when they look to that part of the world and say what is their continental event they will all unanimously agree that it is the Pacific Games and the Pacific Games will be open to all the athletes of the region to participate in.
Andrew Minogue says next year's Pacific Games are a trial and they will reassess Australia and New Zealand's involvement at the end of competition.
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