15 Nov 2023

Pacific Games 2023: Teams start arriving in Honiara

4:21 pm on 15 November 2023
Team Tonga

Team Tonga Photo: Supplied

Pacific nations are starting to fly into Honiara for the 2023 Pacific Games, with several contingents already weclomed in by the Games Organising Committee.

The multi-sport event happens every four years among athletes from Oceania and this year it's being hosted by Solomon Islands from 19 November to 2 December.

The event will see 5000 athletes and officials come together to compete across 24 sports.

Fiji flies out as cyclone heads in

Team Fiji whisked their athletes across the skies from Nadi to Honiara on Tuesday in two chartered Fiji Airways flights as tropical cyclone Mal headed towards the Fiji Group.

With the Fiji Meteorological Office in Nadi predicting the cyclone to hit the Western Division of the islands later Tuesday night and early Monday morning, the Team Fiji contingents scheduled to be involved in the opening events from 17 November and the Games' official opening on Sunday.

Chef de mission Ajay Ballu, who had told RNZ Pacific that Team Fiji was ready for the Pacific's premiere sports event, said the first group of around 150 members had left Nadi Internaitonal Airport at 7am.

The second group left at 3pm.

"We are all set," Ballu said from Nadi on Monday.

Ballu said that Team Fiji is confident of winning their share of medals at the Games and competing against the best of the Pacific teams.

As is traditional in Fiji, Team Fiji members presented their itatau to the President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, at the State House in Suva last week.

The 'itatau is their traditional request for blessing from Fiji's chiefs and her people as they leave the country to represent Fiji overseas.

Ballu said Ratu Wiliame urged the athletes to leave behind any personal issues and challenges that might hinder their performance and focus solely on achieving their goal at the regional meet.

He told the athletes and officials he was confident they will achieve success at the Games.

Team Fiji also issued the 'Lutu i Qele' cibi or battle challenge which was presented for the first time to Ratu Wiliame.

The battle challenge is going to be Team Fiji's equivalent to the All Black 'haka' or Manu Samoa 'siva tau' and will be performed for the first time by the contingent at the Games in Honiara.

Ballu confirmed that Team Fiji has 490 athletes, coaches and section managers at the event.

Missing from the Team Fiji lineup is former sprint king, Ratu Banuve Tabaukaucoro, who had won gold medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres in the past three Pacific Games. He retired from active competition earlier this year.

Waisake Tewa and Joshua Daudravuni have been tasked with the opportunity to continue Team Fiji's dominance in the sprint events that include the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay.

In the women's division Mahatma Gandhi Memorial High School sprinter Kesaia Boletakanadavu, who has won the blue-ribbon events at the Coke Games in Suva this year, is the top tip for Fiji.

In football, Roy Krishna, who plays professional football in India, is with the Fijian men's side in Honiara, catching the flight across from Nadi with them on Tuesday afternoon.

Team Fiji

Team Fiji Photo: Supplied

Papua New Guinea

As preparations rolls on in Honiara, Team Papua New Guinea (PNG) was the first contingent to arrive at the Honiara.

The Pacific Games media team said Chef de Mission Faye Zina Lalo expressed her excitement and hopes.

"Today marks my third visit to the Solomon Islands, and I'm thrilled to be here with my team for this year's games in Honiara," she told Pacific Games media.

"Our athletes have trained rigorously under the leadership of their officials. We expect the PNG athletes to give their best in various sports, both as individuals and as teams.

"I have faith and hope that Team PNG will perform exceptionally in this year's events and secure medals."

She has made a call out to all PNG nationals in Honiara to support.

Team PNG had to pay for their own way to the Games, including their charter flights, after the PNG government failed to pay their promised financial assistance on time.

Team PNG consists of 483 athletes and 22 team officials who will compete in 21 different sports during the games.

Team PNG.

Team PNG. Photo: Supplied


The Kingdom of Tonga's first contingent to the Games also arrived in Honiara on Monday evening.

They were the second national squad to arrive in the Solomon's.

Team Tonga chef de mission Hiko Fungavaka'a, told Pacific Games media that they are confident of doing well and securing some medals at the event.

"Our goal is to secure more medals and give our best performance in the Pacific Games Sol2023. Our team comprises experienced athletes ready to compete."

The Tongan delegation will be housed at the newly built Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Kukum Campus.

Tonga won nine gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands is vying for gold at the Pacific Games on the heels of hosting the Pacific Islands Forum.

Team Cook Islands were given a big send off.

Team Cook Islands general manager Jason Lindsay is taking a 250 strong contingent made up of teams from fourteen sports federations, including mens and women's football, rugby sevens, tennis and beach volleyball.

Northern Marianas

CNMI holds send-off ceremony for Pacific Games athletes

The Northern Marianas' over 100-strong delegation to the Pacific Games were feted to a send-off ceremony last Wednesday.

The ceremony, was held a week before the athletes and officials fly to the South Pacific on a charter flight, also saw swimmer Isaiah Aleksenko selected as Team NMI's flagbearer.

Aleksenko reset both age group and national records in the 50m and 100m backstroke and 50m and 100m butterfly in this year's 20th FINA World Championships. He also won a bronze medal as part of the CNMI national triathlon team in last year's Pacific Mini Games on home soil.

"It felt good to be chosen and I was nervous because there were a lot of people. But I'm happy that I get to be the flagbearer," he said.

The 2021 and 2022 CNMI student athlete of the year added, "It's a pleasure to be the flagbearer, so thank you. I thought it wasn't just going to be me. I thought there were going to be more chosen from each team, so yeah it was unexpected."

The 10 sports Team NMI is competing in the quadrennial event are swimming, athletics, golf, weightlifting, soccer, bodybuilding, va'a, triathlon, tennis, and beach volleyball.

Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan, meanwhile, acknowledged Team NMI's many sponsors to the 2023 Pacific Games.

He said without the financial help from sponsors Joeten DaiDai Foundation, Triple J Saipan, IT&E/IP&E, Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan, Mobil Oil Mariana Islands, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, TanHoldings, and McDonald's of Guam & Saipan, they wouldn't be able to send over 100 athletes and officials to the Solomons.

Lt Gov David Apatang also attended the send-off ceremony and in behalf of Gov. Arnold I. Palacios wished Team NMI well in Honiara.

"We all want to see Team Marianas succeed. Good luck to you and bring some trophies back home. I know you've been working hard for over a year, and now you just have to keep your heads up and be proud to represent the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Good luck and enjoy."

Team NMI to the 2023 Pacific Games.

Team NMI to the 2023 Pacific Games. Photo: Supplied

Tuvalu, Tahiti and New Caledonia

Meanwhile, teams from Tuvalu, Nauru, Samoa, Tahiti and New Caledonia have also arrived in Honiara ahead of the opening events and were welcomed by the Games officials.

Teams from other Pacific countries and those from Australia and New Zealand, are expected to arrive in Honiara over the next few days.

Australia and New Zealand teams are using the Games as a ranking or qualifying event for certain Olympic sports, such as amateur boxing.

While the official opening is scheduled for Sunday, there are sports competitions that will start on Friday, including basketball, football, tennis and volleyball.

Basketball will run until 25 November, with the opening matches scheduled to see Cook Islands meeting Tonga in the women's opening clash at 10am while Guam and Papua New Guinea will open the men's competition at 12 noon.

Football starts with Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu facing off in the men's competition.

The Games will end on 2 December.

Team Tuvalu

Team Tuvalu Photo: Supplied

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