Sport: PNG ready for start of Pacific Games
The 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby are about to start in Papua New Guinea.
The Pacific Games get underway in Papua New Guinea on Friday with officials confident the country is ready, after some early hiccups.
More than 3000 athletes will contest 28 sports over the next fortnight, while New Zealand and Australia will also make their Games debut.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
The games were awarded six years ago, and at one stage, construction and planning were two years behind schedule.
The Executive Director of the Pacific Games Council, Andrew Minogue, says since the current government came to power three years ago, progress has been fast-tracked and everything now appears ready to go.
"The Pacific Games Council has got no issues whatsoever with the fact that some of the venues might need the lick of paint or some finishing works to happen after the Games - I mean that's normal anyway in any Games environment. It's been a close-run thing of course and a lot of the venues are only just coming on-stream now but I think over the last three years we've grown increasingly confident that we'd get to this point and we're here now. PNG is to be commended - they've now got to do the really hard bit, which is actually staging a really successful event and we've got every confidence that they will."
Prince Andrew will officially open the Games at the Sir John Guise Stadium on Saturday night, as he did the last time Port Moresby hosted the event in 1991.
Papua New Guinea's Minister for Sport and the Pacific Games, Justin Tkatchenko, says the Duke of York's presence is a major boost.
"We are very honoured he is coming to represent Her Majesty the Queen. He's also doing some community visits and presentations and openings as well while he's here and presenting a lot of the medals, during the first couple of days of the actual sporting competition. He will be doing weightlifting, triathlon and also he will be visiting the soccer competition as well."
PNG won the most medals at the Pacific Mini Games two years ago.
Chef de Mission Richard Kassman admits there is a lot of pressure from the public to do well at the Games but says he and the team of athletes see that as a positive.
"Good pressure. Papua New Guinea topped the medal count when we last hosted the Games in 1991 and therefore there is a massive expectation that we will follow that. There is tremendous expectation and, on top of that, our government will have spent over 1.2 to 1.5 billion Kina on the facilities here so with that comes this overt expectation as well."
Athletes from New Zealand and Australia are attending the Pacific Games for the first time this year, competing in taekwondo, weightlifting, sailing and rugby sevens.
Chef de Mission Malcolm Page says Australia is excited about taking its first step towards being a permanent part of the Pacific Games, a move he believes makes sense for the long term.
"Being Australia and New Zealand we are in the Pacific, it is our backyard, we love it and it's just great to be part of these Games. I know when I was up in Port Moresby a few months back, for the Chef de Mission meetings, the atmosphere and also the culture Papua New Guinea has was really shining through and I think they're going to be putting on a pretty impressive event and really taking the Pacific Games to a new level so it's exciting times."
The action starts with basketball, touch rugby, football and table tennis on Friday morning.
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