Tonga Minister angered by Games fiasco

5:22 pm on 13 July 2015

A Tonga cabinet minister says he is embarrassed the government had to foot much of the travel bill for 59 athletes whose associations failed to pay their air fares to Papua New Guinea for the Pacific Games.

Tongan mens 7s team claimed bronze at the Pacific Games in PNG.

Tongan mens 7s team claimed bronze at the Pacific Games in PNG. Photo: RNZI/Vinnie Wylie

The athletes were part of the 255 member Tongan sports team, but arrived at Fua'amotu airport last Tuesday to be told they had not been booked on the flight.

The sports people eventually got to PNG at the weekend having missed the first half of the Games.

The Minister of Youth, Employment and Sports, Fe'ao Vakata, says he did not support the decision to send the additional athletes, because the Tonga Amateur Sports Association and other federations were disorganised and unprepared.

"If it was just up to myself they will not go. I wouldn't send them if it wasn't for the Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister. There are international standards that we should be achieving before we send the team."

Fe'ao Vakata says the Tonga Government ended up paying two thirds of Tonga Games team's travel costs - double what had been arranged.

He says the associations will have to refund the money when they get back.

The late arriving athletes are participating in taekwondo, cricket, netball, and athletics.