The upcoming Pacific Mini Games in the Northern Marianas are set to be postponed until May 2022 to avoid a clash with the Tokyo Olympics.
The Mini Games were originally scheduled to be held in Saipan in June next year but, with the Olympics now delayed until the following month because of Covid-19, the Pacific Games Council asked the CNMI to explore other options.
The General Secretary of the Northern Marianas Sports Association, Alex Sablan, said the Games Oversight Committee, which included government appointees, made the decision to postpone the games a few weeks ago.
"In recognition that the Tokyo Olympics has been rescheduled to summer 2021...we've all come together to agree that we need to move our games to the summer of 2022, and taking into account that the Commonwealth Games will be conducted in that summer as well we're looking at the idea of conducting the Games in early to mid May."
Last year the CNMI government agreed to fund a scaled-back Mini Games after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the islands in 2018.
Alex Sablan, who Chairs the Games Oversight Committee, said the Governor Ralph Torres was fully supportive of the decision to delay the Games.
"He's in full agreement that it would be best that we move the Games, considering the situation we have within the Commonwealth: our economy is solely focused on tourism and we've got none, so at this point we're reeling as far as the economy.
"So we're going to need the time to come out of this as well as deal with the fact the Tokyo Games are next year."
CNMI still keen on expansion
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.
Alex Sablan said the CNMI remained keen to expand the sporting programme from six to eight and would make a presentation to the Pacific Games Council's General Assembly later this year.
"We're hopeful that we can make the presentation in September, whether it be personally or virtually, that we get that accomplished...so yes we're going to continue forward with that into the Games and we should be able to cover the cost."
The President of the Pacific Games Council, Vidhya Lakhan, said some Fijian media had incorrectly reported that the Mini Games would not go ahead.
Mr Lakhan said he was yet to receive a formal request from the CNMI to defer the Mini Games, although Mr Sablan said, after some initial confusion, they had relayed their decision to Council CEO Andrew Minogue.
Any request to postpone the Games would need to be submitted to the Pacific Games Council's Executive Board and approved by the wider membership at the upcoming General Assembly.