By BILL SAKOVICH
SPECIAL TO THE SAIPAN TRIBUNE
For the third time, the Northern Marianas will host the Micronesian Games on Saipan from June 24 to July 7, 2006.
The inaugural Micronesian Games (originally known as the Micronesian Olympics) was held in July 1969 under the direction of the late Felix Rabauliman, Elias Okamura, and Al Snyder.
Kurt Barnes and David Sablan also played important roles. The Micronesian Games was established through the foresight of the second and third Congress of Micronesia for the youth of Micronesia and were to be held every three years.
According to then High Commissioner Edward E. Johnston, “Micronesia needed a non-political event to bring the people together and to continue the process of bringing Micronesia into one working unit.”
The first Games brought together some 450 athletes from all the six districts of the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands in addition to over 5,000 spectators. The most remembered highlight of the inaugural Games was probably the final baseball game between fierce rivals Chuuk and Palau, which Palau won 1-0.
At this time these Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands, which included Palau, were Marshalls, Ponape (now Pohnpei), and Kusaie (now Kosrae), Truk (now Chuuk), Yap, and the Marianas (but not Guam).
The sports contested were swimming at the Fishing Basin, track and field at Hopwood, baseball played where the Joetyen Kiyu Public Library now stands, basketball and volleyball outdoors, table tennis, the Micronesian All Around, sailing, paddling, and tennis—all in facilities nowhere near the standard of today.
For several reasons the next three-year cycle did not take place and it wasn’t until 1988, when a letter written to the Gov. Pete P. Tenorio by now KMCV sports director Bob Coldeen suggested that the Micronesian Games be re-instituted, and along with the governor’s approval, a committee made up of Ed Manibusan, Frank Rosario, Coldeen, and yours truly forged ahead with the idea.
Mike Grandinetti joined the committee in charge of Finances and recruited DFS, Shimizu Corp., and Mobil as the major sponsors, along with the NMI government.
Rosario joined the committee in charge of publicity and the 2nd Micronesian Games were scheduled for July 1990 on Saipan.
The 1990 Games was a tremendous success with the same countries in 1969 joining, along with the inclusion of Guam, Nauru, and Kiribati. About 1,200 athletes competed from all the islands and the Micronesian Games were revived.
These Games also brought with it closer ties between the islands and the camaraderie of Micronesians to join together every four years and from here sports in Micronesia grew.
During this time, the association of Pacific Island Legislatures was mandated to the hold the Micronesian Games every four years.
The next Games was hosted by Guam in 1994 (at the time Guam was the only NOC in the region), Palau (who later became an NOC) in 1998, and Pohnpei (part of the FSM NOC) in 2002.
Yap had won the bid to host the next Games but was unable to financially bankroll the event due to the major typhoon that hit the islands year before. During the last South Pacific Mini Games in Palau, the members decided to award the Games to Saipan.