Olympic qualifiers for many Pacific Games sports could be on the cards for 2027

The Pacific Games could host Olympic qualifiers for every sport by 2027, if the Oceania National Olympic Committee (O.N.O.C) succeeds on their campaign.

Already, the 2019 Pacific Games included qualifiers for archery, athletics, swimming, weightlifting and taekwondo.

The Oceania Sailing Federation (O.S.A.F) had hoped this year’s sailing competition would be made an Olympic qualifier but were left disappointed. But it has been a crucial year towards making a Pacific Island qualifier happen.

O.S.A.F President Tony Philps said he has had assurances from World Sailing that before the end of the year it will be confirmed that the 2023 Solomon Island’s Pacific Games will include a sailing Olympic qualifier.

“We had hoped that it was going to happen for these games though it was never guaranteed. 

“We were probably all a little more hopeful than we should have been, but we are assured and promised that within a few months it will be confirmed that it will happen for the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands,” Mr Philps said.

“We have to complete a review of these games and in particular the sailing event and we have got to climb a few other steps on the ladder but we have been given a very definite assurance that it will happen.”

Regional Olympic qualifiers are more affordable opportunities for athletes from small island states to reach the international playing field of the Olympic Games. Today, sailors can qualify for the Olympics in a number of countries like New Zealand, Australia, and even Japan, but not within the Blue Continent of the Pacific Islands.

Philps said that the Oceania National Olympic Committee sees that and wants every regional competition of the Pacific Games to double as a qualifying event.

“Beyond [2023], in 2027 we are assured by O.N.O.C that every sport in the Pacific Games will be an Olympic qualifier. 

“They have bigger dreams than we have, we are not alone in pursuing this situation.”

In an email, O.N.O.C Secretary General Ricardo Blas said: “O.N.O.C fully supports all partners willing to engage with the Pacific Games Council utilizing their platform to qualify athletes to the Olympic Games.

And Pacific Games Council (P.G.C) chief executive officer Andrew Minogue said he confident the list of sports with qualifiers will grow, but he can’t say for sure by how much.

There are two major barriers to sports having Olympic qualifiers at the Pacific Games, and they are the ranking levels of Pacific Island athletes, and that the games include non-Olympic committees.

In Tennis for example, there are no Pacific Islands athletes ranked in even the top 200 list, Mr Minogue said, something Oceania Tennis needs to work on before talking Olympic qualifying events in the region.

And in elimination sports like boxing which include non-Olympic committees like New Caledonia, Tahiti, Norfolk Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Wallis and Futuna, Norfolk Islands, Niue and Tokelau, the competition could be corrupted.

“It doesn’t matter in sports like weightlifting or sailing where everyone is doing their own race or lifting,” Mr Minogue explained.

“But if you are A versus B, having a non-Olympic member country will potentially corrupt the draw, if they are trying to do qualify.

“If New Caledonia was fighting say Tonga and it’s an Olympic Qualifier and the Tongan gets beaten he’ll complain that he’s been beaten by someone who is not Olympic committee.”

Other continental Games in Africa, Asia and the America’s face similar rankings challenges but the Pacific Games are unique in the amount of non-Olympic committee members there are in the Games.

Meanwhile, table tennis is looking at a Pacific Games qualifying event for Paralympics, and beach volleyball is likely to have a pathway event too by 2023.

“It is early days and we don’t know exactly what the qualification process will be for the Paris Olympics and how that will affect the Solomon Islands, but we expect the sports that had qualification this time around will do so again,” Mr Minogue said.

“I would be very confident as the Pacific Games Council that the program of qualifications will continue to increase.”

As for sailing, the pathway to a qualifying event for 2023 is clearly laid out. 

After a review of Samoa’s Pacific Games and of the O.S.A.F supported sailing competition, it should be smoothing sailing towards their goals.

“World Sailing just need to be assured we are capable of delivering an event that meets their specifications and standards and we don’t have any issue with that,”, President Mr Philps said.

“We are perfectly capable of doing that. We have done it many times in the past with a lot less help from World Sailing than we are currently getting.” 

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