14 Sep 2023

Solomon Islands government receives Pacific Games stadium from China

10:11 am on 14 September 2023
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (back centre) at the handover ceremony with Chinese Ambassador to Solomon Islands Li Ming

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (back centre) at the handover ceremony with Chinese Ambassador to Solomon Islands Li Ming Photo: Pacific Games Council

China has formally handed over the main stadium for this year's Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara.

Chinese funding has proved a significant theme in preparations for the Games, with the multi-sport event backed to the tune of $SBD1.85 billion ($US220 million).

The state-run China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation completed work on the 10,000-capacity venue set to host opening and closing ceremonies during the Pacific Games, and is due to assist with maintenance for two years.

The stadium, which includes a full-size pitch that can be used for football and rugby, was handed to Solomon Islands at an invite-only ceremony last month where Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare expressed his gratitude to China.

"Today this relationship is taken to new heights as we witness the handing over of the facilities to our country and to our people," Sogavare said, as reported by China's Global Times.

Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming described the completion of the Pacific Games stadium as a major landmark in the relationship between the two countries.

"This is a symbol of the China-Solomon Islands friendship and a source of pride for the people of Solomon Islands," Li said.

"It is a significant achievement of the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative between China and Solomon Islands."

Photo: Pacific Games Council

Critics including opposition leader Matthew Wale argue spending on the Pacific Games is wasteful and areas including healthcare should be prioritised, and fear benefits will be limited to Honiara.

Sogavare claimed at the ceremony "without the financial and economic boost brought in by the 2023 Pacific Games projects, our economy would have collapsed", as reported by Benar News.

A Chinese-built aquatic centre has also been unveiled for the Pacific Games, while 80 Solomon Islands athletes are undergoing a 90-day training programme in China.

Sogavare switched the Solomon Islands diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, prompting concern from Western nations including the United States who re-opened an Embassy in Honiara earlier this year in an attempt to counter Chinese influence.

Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Japan have also provided financial aid for the Pacific Games.

Sogavare has controversially delayed the Solomon Islands' general election until next year, extending his term beyond the constitutional limit of four years.

He has claimed the country does not have the resources to stage the Pacific Games and a general election in the same year which led to it being postponed to 2024, but critics have accused him of a power grab and acting undemocratically.

The Pacific Games is scheduled for November 19 to December 2, four months later than initially planned with the delay blamed on covid-19.