Athletes from across the Pacific react to Sol2023 opening ceremony

Palau athletes in Honiara (Photo: SOL23)

Amid scenes of wild excitement at the Sol2023 Pacific Games opening ceremony on Sunday night in Honiara, the Games News Service spoke to athletes and officials from across the region to capture the excitement of the moment:

Austin Kaleopa – American Samoan swimming athlete

“We have come all the way here to represent our country. It’s my first time being part of the Pacific Games and my first time in Solomon Islands. I am proud to represent my country, my village and my family.”

Tasi Limtiaco – Federated States of Micronesia flag bearer and swimming athlete

“I’m really excited. This is my first Pacific Games. I’m hoping to go for gold and I am just happy to be here representing my country. The people have been really welcoming and the food’s amazing too. Thank you for having us.”

Ratu Josua Rokonavutoro – Fiji rugby league 9s player

“I am feeling very excited for the Opening Ceremony, especially in this new stadium. It’s my first time here in Solomon Islands.”

Matthew Stubbings – Papua New Guinea flag bearer and tennis athlete

“We have both (he and fellow flag bearer, PNG women’s football player Ramona Padio) represented PNG very proudly and with a lot of passion. We are super excited to be selected as flag bearers and very honoured to be upfront.”

Maximina Uepa – Nauru flag bearer and weightlifting athlete

“I am very happy and excited. It’s an honour for my country and my family. The team will support me tonight and we will enjoy it.”

David Liti – New Zealand flag bearer and weightlifting athlete

“It’s such an honour and such a privilege to be the flag-bearer again (Liti was also the flag-bearer at Samoa 2019). It means a lot, wearing the fern and being able to represent my country of birth, because I can showcase what we are made of and what it means to come from the islands of New Zealand. Just seeing the best in the Pacific here, it’s a privilege. We are the smallest continent in the world, so it’s cool to see so many people come out and represent their cultures and their nation.”

Malcolm Tarrant – Norfolk Island flag bearer and Chef De Mission

“All our team are playing in the second week so they have all decided to come over in the second week and they will be here for the Closing Ceremony. So I am the only one here for the opening. It’s very daunting. I just want to do Norfolk proud and carry it high. I’ve got 30 seconds to do something, and I’ll wave to everyone and just enjoy the moment.”

Jenly Tegu Wini – Solomon Islands flag bearer and weightlifting athlete

“This is my sixth time as flag bearer for Solomon Islands. I’m representing all the citizens of Solomon Islands so I’m proud and happy because this flag represents all the Solomon Islands.”

Teatarii Maraetefau – Tahiti women’s football team

“It’s unbelievable, it’s my first Pacific Games and it’s beautiful. The atmosphere is incredible.”

Ilai Ualesi Elekana Manu – Tokelau flag bearer and judoka

“Representing our nation is a big honor. Despite only my coach and me being present tonight for the opening, we felt our entire island nation standing behind us. The warm reception and hospitality from the Solomon Islands people since our arrival have been overwhelming. Witnessing the performers tonight and the diverse cultures fills me with pride as a Tokelauan and, more importantly, as a Pacific Islander.”

Ioane Hawaii – Tuvalu flag bearer and Para table tennis athlete

“It’s an emotional moment for me as a person with disability to carry the flag for our country. I am here to defend my title from the previous Pacific Games, to win a gold medal for my country.”

Anolyn Flyn Lulu – Vanuatu Flag Bearer and table tennis athlete

“I feel so honoured to represent Vanuatu and to carry this flag. The people of Vanuatu and the whole nation is behind us and we are entering this arena with so much pride and so much joy to represent our country, despite the cyclones and disasters that we have been through this year. It is a feeling that comes with a lot of emotion. I feel for all the young people and all the athletes. Being a veteran athlete (this is her seventh Pacific Games), I have so much pride leading this team of very young athletes in this Games.”

Kenny Wallace – Australia Chef de Mission

“Just being at the dining hall, all the Pacific teams singing, dancing, a lot of high-fives, it is indeed the friendly games. We’ve been made to feel so welcome by everyone and walking into the Opening Ceremony tonight and the crowd cheering, clapping, and all the smiling faces – it’s incredible to be here. Just putting on the Australian shirt and feeling as one team representing our country in an amazing space like this is pretty special.”

Roto Onorio – Kiribati Chef de Mission

“I’d like to thank the Kiribati community here. They’ve been awesome, they welcomed us, they’ve made our garlands here, so to honour them we’ve worn the garlands this evening as part of the Opening Ceremony. I think there’ll be many of them here in the stadium.”

Niniwa Roberts – New Zealand Chef de Mission

“It’s phenomenal. Solomon Islands have done an incredible job in pulling this together and our team is so pumped to be here tonight. I’m so excited for not only the host country but also all these Pacific teams coming together to celebrate in such an incredible event.”

Sidney Lui – Niue Chef de Mission

“We’re very excited about the Opening Ceremony, not just that but being in Solomon Islands. Our assistant Chef de Mission served in RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) and even named his daughter (Niue’s weightlifting athlete, Ramsi Carol Litomatala Kose Edwards) after RAMSI, and tonight she is our flag bearer.”

Garry Vui – Samoa golf coach

“I can’t believe this is so big, the stadium is fully packed. Comparing this event to the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, we never had that in Samoa. This is outstanding, your government has done a great job. Thank you for welcoming us, thank you for the warm hearts, and thank you for taking care of us. We’re very proud coming here to represent our country.