Tonga’s decision to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games is an opportunity for Samoa.
That’s the opinion of the President of the Samoa Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.), Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i.
“I think from S.A.S.N.O.C.’s perspective, we’re happy to host and we have the ability to do so,” he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“Even though it’s short notice, we can step in but depending on what government says.”
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Fepulea’i said hosting the Games will provide a great opportunity to utilise the facilities Samoa has.
But he is mindful that Samoa is not the only country capable of hosting.
“We could step in,” he said, “we have all the facilities to be able to host.”
“I’m pretty sure other countries like Fiji will be interested also. They also have the facilities to host.”
The news of Tonga pulling out is fairly recent, so S.A.S.N.O.C. will consult government to finalise the decision to put in a bid to host.
“Well there’s a lot of consultation to take place first before that decision can be made. It involves government, I need to talk with government to find out what their position is as well,” he said.
“At this stage, I think the news has just came out."
“I need to see what government’s position is on this is as well. Also, we need to contact the Pacific Games Council to advise them that we’re interested in stepping in. There’ll be a process that we need to follow for that."
“The facilities don’t belong to S.A.S.N.O.C. they belong to the government."
“S.A.S.N.O.C. will be happy to host these games with government.”
Yesterday, Tonga’s withdrawal became official.
Tonga's Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva, conceded that the move is not a good look for the country but it is necessary.
"It may look embarrassing but as far as Tonga is concerned, the economic and financial situation of the country at the moment, there is no other option but to cancel the sports,” Mr. Pohiva is quoted as saying by RNZI.
“We are being forced by circumstance, by financial and economic circumstance of the day, to do the right thing and the right thing is to cancel."
He said the Cabinet made the decision on the basis of a 2013 World Bank report about the economic impact of the event.
Mr. Pohiva said the government still had to work out what would happen to finances committed towards hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.
Mr. Pohiva said he would talk with foreign donors soon.
"I will contact PNG. Remember PNG was committed to contribute but we are still waiting so we still don't have that contribution. China will continue to build the indoor stadium for Tonga High school and also the other facilities."
While Mr. Pohiva said he intended to write a letter to the Pacific Games Council informing them of the decision.
The Council said it had not heard from the government about plans to withdraw from hosting the games.
President of the council, Vidhya Lakhan, said all they know was what they had heard through the media.
"There has been no official communication, either to the Games Council or the Pacific Games Association of Tonga, about their intentions," said Mr Lakhan.
"It is already known there is a tripartite contract and if one partner wishes to pull out, for whatever reason, I think it is common courtesy that the other partners would be consulted, advised and we could look at ways and means of keeping the Games in Tonga if there was intention to move it out.
"So we will wait until we hear and then we will do whatever we feel is necessary to ensure that the games remain in Tonga."
"But I just can't believe what I'm hearing because only about two months ago...I think it was in a question and answer session he assured the parliament and the people of Tonga that his government was totally behind the games."
"And the government was supporting it and they will do whatever was necessary to ensure they have a successful games in 2019."