Mar 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Mixing sports and politics

The tattered track at Teufaiva Stadium reflects the troubles facing Tonga’s Pacific Games bid. The tattered track at Teufaiva Stadium reflects the troubles facing Tonga’s Pacific Games bid. Photo: Joe Yaya
Published in 2017 March

Tonga’s bid to host 2019 Pacific Games reaches political climax

SPORT has an uncanny ability to bring people together and build comradery lasting a lifetime, more so nowadays when those special moments can be captured on film. When Nelson Mandela walked out in the Springbok jersey in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, we saw the power sport can bring in uplifting a nation.

The Pacific is sports-crazed and the ultimate quadrennial event is the Pacific Games. Host countries get an extra boost to their economies, while the facilities built allows them to host other international events and provide local athletes a place to train. Tonga is the venue for the July 2019 Games. But with a two-and-a-half year window that’s closing quickly, none of the facilities have been built including upgrading the National Stadium at Teufaiva Park.

Constant interference from Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva is making preparations difficult for the organizers. In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament late January, chairman of the Organizing Committee Fred Sevele and president of the National Olympic Committee Tevita Tupou called on the Parliament to step in and help out “before it is too late”. The letter strongly stated Tonga is in real danger of not being ready to host the 2019 Games and they could lose the rights to host the event if things don’t change.

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