8 Jun 2017

Sport: Pacific Games Council threats legal action over Pacific Games

12:52 pm on 8 June 2017

The Pacific Games Council is threatening legal action in reponse to the Tonga government unilaterally withdrawing from hosting the 2019 Games.

Council President Vidhya Lakhan and CEO Andrew Minogue met with the Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, and two of his ministers on Tuesday, in a last ditch attempt to try and change their minds.

But the Prime Minister said the cabinet's decision was final and they government wished to focus its resources on other more important areas of economic development.

Tongan prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva meets with the Pacific Games Council in 2015.

Tongan prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva meets with the Pacific Games Council in 2015. Photo: Supplied/Pacific Games Council

Andrew Minogue said the Games Council met with a lawyer in Nuku'alofa this week and if there was no change in stance from the government by the end of June, they will begin proceedings to seek damages through the court.

"We want to follow the rules. Sports people and sports organisations always like to follow the rules and we have rules under our contract, that we have with the Tongan government and TASANOC for these Games, around how the contract is to be terminated in the event that it has to be," he said.

"(The Tonga) government hasn't respected that process but we want to because it's our event and it's our product and we want to follow the rules...in the meantime we will be ramping up our efforts to go out to the other member countries and call for expressions of interest once we get through this month.

"But we have said to the Tongan Olympic Committee and also to the media, the Prime Minister may have closed the door to negotiations but in good faith we said we'd give the country a month to sort out its issues.

"...While we are going to take steps to move forward the Tongan people should know that it's in their hands now.

"If they want the Games then they have to petition the government or whatever it is they have to do to try and reverse the decision."

The Pacific Games Council says it's disappointed but not surprised the Tonga government reaffirmed its decision to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Games.

Andrew Minogue said Mr Pohiva and his ministers refused to enter into any negotiations.

"The concern appeared to be not so much over the actual cost of the Games themselves but rather the government's intention to prioritise other things," he said.

"They wanted to look at other projects like a causeway and roads and various things that they've got on their agenda.

"Their view - and I think it was said by the other two ministers that were there - was that sport and the Games were a low priority for the government at the moment."

'Akilisi Pohiva

'Akilisi Pohiva Photo: AFP

A week before announcing their intention to withdraw their support for the 2019 Games, the Prime Minister said everything was going to plan.

But Andrew Minogue said Mr Pohiva made it very clear the government would not reconsider their decision.

"We offered to go through the budget figures that they had - we've done a lot of work on the games budget through the organising committee and we've got our estimates on the cost of the games," he said.

"We're not aware of the figures that the government is using and we know that they've talked about a report from 2013, which has been superseded by a number of other reports that show the positive economic growth and development to the country of hosting the games.

"But the PM and the two ministers in support of him really didn't want to go into detail of the budget and line items and the costs - they said their mind is made up and they're moving on."

Looking to the gates at Teufaiva

Teufaiva Stadium was to be the main venue for the 2019 Games. Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta