P.M. surprised Australia, New Zealand get Games membership

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegoi is surprised the Pacific Games Council unanimously agreed to grant Australia and New Zealand associate membership to participate in the Pacific Games.

He said the Samoa Government is not privy to the conference agenda of the Pacific Games Council General Assembly, but it is incumbent on the Samoa Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.) to get the advice of the Government. 

“However our S.A.S.N.O.C. representative should have sought an opinion from the Government; after all without the Government support these Games would not be possible. The Government can reach for the sword when it is necessary,” he said.

The participation of Australian and New Zealand athletes was at the invitation of the Pacific Games Council. 

The eight games Australian and New Zealand athletes featured in include archery, athletics, beach volleyball, football, sailing, takwondo weightlifting and rugby sevens.

As of yesterday, Australia was placed fifth on the medal tally with a total of 33 gold medals, nine silver and 14 bronze; while New Zealand landed on the ninth place with seven golds, 10 silver and seven bronze medals. 

The Prime Minister said the Pacific Games held in Tahiti back in 1995, at the time France announced they will resume nuclear testing at Murora in French Polynesia. 

“The effect of the Pacific oceans as a result of nuclear was a concern and we were also worried for our athletes the government leaders ban Team Samoa to participate. 

“We boycotted the games in 1995 to send a clear message to the French (that) the nuclear testing on the Pacific waters is stupid and wrong. 

“The Government will not allow our sport bodies to do whatever they want, they have to consult with the Government. Our representatives should not sit idle when decisions are questionable in these regional sport bodies.  

Tuilaepa said the Government secured funding to build the sporting facilities, provide financial assistance and much more to develop sports in the County. 

“In the end, the Government has the final say and that is why it’s important for the Government to be involved when it comes to decision affecting the Games as a whole,” he said.

Last week, Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan said once Australia and New Zealand become associate members they will have the right to participate in the games. 

But the Council will have the final say on which sports they can participate in, added Mr. Lakhan. 

The participation of Australia and New Zealand was a long term objective to strengthen the Pacific Games and also to ensure that the event was recognised globally. 

While most countries have their own Continental Games, the Pacific Games is not recognised as a Continental Games because New Zealand and Australia were not allowed to take part.

There were fears expressed in the past that the two countries could dominate the sporting events in a Pacific Games.

But the President pointed out that the two countries did not dominate the previous one held in P.N.G. in 2015. 

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