Pacific Games 2023: Solomons athletes cry foul over 'unfulfilled promises' as Games opening looms

2:24 pm on 8 November 2023
Solomon Islands athletes at the newly built Pacific Games Stadium in Honiara. 24 October 2023.

Solomon Islands athletes at the newly built Pacific Games Stadium in Honiara. Photo: XVII Pacific Games

With the opening ceremony of the 2023 Pacific Games looming, some Solomon Islands athletes are asking why there is no financial assistance given to them during their preparation.

The athletes have formed a group called Solomon Islands Athletes Solidarity (SIAS) to take their issues and concerns to the respective authorities.

Triathlete Irowane Primson told RNZ Pacific athletes from at least 15 sports federations in the country are unhappy and were being victimised as they prepare for the Games starting in less than two weeks' time.

According to Primson, they have not received any response from the National Olympic Committee of Solomon Islands (NOCSI) regarding their grievances to date.

RNZ Pacific contacted NOCSI multiple times via phone calls and electronic mails to respond to the claims by SIAS.

In an email response to RNZ Pacific, NOCSI secretary general Melinda-Soaika Avosa said the organisation's president Martin Bai Rara was not available to comment.

"Any official comment will be from our PGASI [Pacific Games Association Solomon Islands] President," Avosa said.

"However, he's currently out field attending meetings and venues check as he is also the Chairman for the PG2023 Organising Committee," she said.

Welfare issues

Speaking from Honiara, Primson told RNZ Pacific that athletes have been victimised, especially their welfare.

He said some athletes had moved from their island homes to be in Honiara for preparation, renting and paying their own expenses when they could.

With no money to pay for transport, he said they have had to find their own way to and from training sessions.

National Olympic Committee Solomon Islands president Martin Bai Rara.

NOCSI president Martin Bai Rara is unavailable to comment on the issue. Photo: Olympic Committee Solomon Islands

Some have families who rely on them for income and family needs and the current situation has also made the athletes worry and lose focus with training and preparation.

"Most athletes have been sacrificing and most potential athlete gave up, so they quit training, they quit coming to training throughout the year and some don't put their effort into training," he Primson claims.

"So, during the national trials for selection they are not making good times for qualification for Team Solomons.

"Some are blaming the federations; some are blaming the organising committee. We got together to raise the concerns to the authorities so that the athletes can be assisted."

Primson claims they were told by officials not to raise the issues through the media but got through NOCSI or their individual federations.

He confirmed that they had been in touch and had raised their issues with no response, although some athletes started getting some food packs, while the Solomon Islands National Institute of Sports had issued $100 to athletes to assist them with bus fares.

"Our team managers, during their meetings, they said we should not call for any solidarity, or we should not complain," he said.

"So that's why they are threatening us. But we encourage each other because we know this is our right to point this out because we are the ones that will be running and competing, we might break our bones, our legs and get injured.

"We are not just volunteering to play and then have officials come and pat us on the back and we go home with our issues and injuries, trying to recover by ourselves."

Primson's comments were echoed by Moses Ohai'ihi, another athlete and the group's vice president.

"The athletes are disheartened because they have been given unfulfilled promises and there is lack of support to prepare athletes for the Games," Ohai'ihi said.

"The athletes concerned want to know what Government and the Organising Committee are doing as far as our welfare is concerned."

'Minimal number' complaining - insider

A source from within the sports organisations who wanted to remain anonymous told RNZ Pacific said the athletes complaining have forgotten what government and the sports organisations have done for them.

The source said the athletes complaining "are minimal in number, with around one percent, and the majority, or 99 percent, have been focusing on the Games".

They added the federations should be upfront with athletes and those who are not willing to give their best should not be considered for participation at the Pacific Games.

The administrator argued that what the athletes were raising are social issues and not sports issues.

However, Primson said the two are linked as social and welfare issues affects how athletes perform.

"If athletes are unhappy and worried about their welfare and their family's needs, they will not perform as expected because their minds will be on what they have to feed themselves with and who will pay for the bills," he he said.

The Pacific Games opening ceremony is on 19 November.

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