Sport: Pacific Mini Games set to be postponed to avoid Olympic clash

10:21 am on 7 April 2020

The Northern Marianas have been asked to consider alternative dates for hosting the 2021 Pacific Mini Games in an effort to avoid a clash with the Tokyo Olympics.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Mark Rabago

The Mini Games are scheduled to be held in Saipan in June next year but with the Olympics now delayed until the following month because of Covid-19, Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue said they had requested the CNMI explore other options.

"Our member countries, the majority of them are Olympic Committees who are responsible for taking delegations of athletes to Saipan but also to Tokyo," he said.

"That's a particular challenge so we've advised our friends up in the Northern Marianas to start looking at some alternative dates that they may wish to hold the Games."

Minogue said the CNMI was trying to get back on their feet after Super Typhoon Yutu which devastated the islands in 2018.

"So I think it's our expectation that they will probably welcome the opportunity to have more time to get organised for the Games, if they push them back into the latter part of 2021 or even into 2022."

He said those options were available to the CNMI who could see what works best for them.

Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue.

Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue. Photo: Vinnie Wylie/RNZ Pacific

Last year the CNMI government agreed to fund a scaled-back Mini Games after the destruction of Super Typhoon Yutu.

Governor Ralph Torres originally withdrew his support for the games before agreeing to a reduced budget of three million US dollars and a slimmed down programme of just six sports.

Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan, CNMI Governor Ralph Torres and Northern Marianas Sports Association President Jerry Tan in February.

Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan, CNMI Governor Ralph Torres and Northern Marianas Sports Association President Jerry Tan in February. Photo: Supplied

The CNMI have also been hit heavily by Covid-19, with the local tourism sector grinding to a halt, but Andrew Minogue was confident the commonwealth remained committed to hosting the Mini Games.

"Certainly the Governor hasn't come back to us since we were there in February and made any comment about how the situation is looking but he's obviously got a lot to deal with in terms of running the government there and they've had shutdowns and furloughs and all that sort of management he's got to look after but I think we're proceeding on the basis that the Games will happen in Saipan," he said.

"We've agreed on a budget with the Governor - I guess we could look at revising that down again if we had to but it's a fairly minimal budget and I think it's an achievable one but we will just see what happens as this pandemic plays out."

In February, the Northern Marianas Sports Association asked the Pacific Games Council to add tennis and weightlifting to the programme for next year's Mini Games, in the hope it would boost the hosts medal hopes in the quadrennial event.

Weightlifting is now set to be included in the 2021 Pacific Mini Games in Saipan.

Weightlifting is normally one of the most popular and strongest competitions at the Pacific Games and Pacific Mini Games. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Mark Rabago

Minogue said the Games Council was open to the idea of including more sports in Saipan but admitted priorities had changed quickly over the past two months.

"I think that was an indication of the confidence that both the Governor and the newly elected board of NMSA had with the state of the Games, that they could actually start to look at growing the programme with a couple of extra sports back towards the original bid of course was 12 sports...but obviously that's on hold a little bit now."

Minogue said, as it stands, athletics was the only sport likely to be affected by staging the Mini Games one month prior to the Olympics, with Pacific athletes yet to qualify for Tokyo in golf, badminton, beach volleyball, baseball and triathlon.

However he said the logistics of National Olympic Committees having to organise delegations to two major sporting events in quick succession would be problematic.