5 Feb 2021

Pacific Mini Games organisers pinning hopes on Covid vaccine

12:04 pm on 5 February 2021

Organisers of the 2022 Pacific Mini Games remain confident the event will go ahead, despite lingering concerns over the impact of Covid-19.

The Northern Marianas was originally set to host the multi-sport event in June before it was delayed by 12 months because of the global pandemic.

Chair of the Games Organising Committee, Marco Peter, said the CNMI is ready to welcome athletes and officials to Saipan but they are reliant on the resumption of commercial flights into the territory.

"Our goal in the Marianas is to get up to 90 percent of our community vaccinated, so once that vaccine happens throughout the community up to 90 percent there could be a chance where we might be able to have the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration in the US) open up more flights for us."

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Saipain International Airport. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Mark Rabago

The rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in the CNMI has already reached more than 10,000 people, or one sixth of the population.

Mr Peter said the CNMI cannot force anyone to take a Covid-19 vaccine and will be discussing how best to approach the issue with the Governor, Ralph Torres, the Covid-19 Taskforce and the CNMI's congressional representatives in the US.

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Photo: Supplied

"What are the options, we have to weight the options on either side."

Up to 600 athletes are expected to participate in the Mini Games across six sports: athletics, triathlon, badminton, baseball, beach volleyball and golf, while the addition of weightlifting and tennis is still being considered.

The Oleai Sports Complex will be the main venue for the Pacific Mini Games

The Oleai Sports Complex will be the main venue for the Pacific Mini Games Photo: RNZ Pacific / Mark Rabago

Marco Peter said most of the sports facilities are ready to go and the CNMI Government has committed to funding at least half of the Mini Games US$3.2 million dollar budget.

"The renovations of the baseball field should be taking place in the next two months - just a quick renovation on the fence itself and the lighting - and then on the athletics grounds just a quick rehab on the track itself and the lighting.

"As you notice most of the events are going to be outdoors, which is actually a great way to keep everybody safe from everything surrounding us with the pandemic."

Mr Peter said the CNMI Government remains "110 percent supportive" of hosting the Mini Games and has committed to covering at least 50 percent of the estimated US$3.2 million budget.

"I'm hoping they can cover even close to 80 percent of the actual cost of the Games," he said.

"...There's no turning back now and I will make sure that everybody - the athletes especially - are being protected, are safe from everything else but it won't happen if we don't have the funding."

The Pacific Games Council has provided US$20,000 in seed funding with any remaining shortfall to come from sponsorship.