Gov. Benigno R. Fitial gave local athletes and fans of sports throughout the region cause for a brief celebration yesterday afternoon after announcing that he will entertain a financial plan to host the 2006 Micronesian Games put forth by concerned members of the athletic community.
“Next Friday, if nothing develops from the chairman’s visit to Palau, we’ll get together…and we’ll decide, based on the quantification of the requirements—because we have to quantify every single support that the government will be providing—and then we’ll make a decision the same day,” Fitial said.
A crowd of protestors rallied outside Fitial’s Capitol Hill office yesterday afternoon in hopes of convincing him to rescind his previous decision to withdraw the CNMI from hosting the Games. Following the governor’s regularly scheduled press conference, Fitial invited the group of concerned athletes, coaches, parents, and supporters for an audience inside the conference room to hear their requests.
Armed with signs that read “No money, only medals” and “Let them play,” the swimmers, softball players, baseball players, triathletes, basketball players, track and field competitors, parents, students, and more proceeded into the conference room. By the time the final protestors passed through the main entrance, they were forced to look on from the doorway as the room was full.
Once they settled in, Saipan Swim Club head coach and recently honored Coach of the Year Michael Stewart took center stage to explain the purpose of the group’s visit.
“Governor, we’re here, sir, to ask for the support of the government—we’re not asking for anything in the financial aspect of it… [Our organizations] can organize within ourselves [in] running our own sports. We are asking for support from government personnel and facilities to help facilitate the visitors that do come in and to provide transportation. We believe that, as an athletic organization that puts on different meets, we can host the Games. We know that it would be a benefit to the CNMI, and Saipan specifically. We’re talking 1,500 athletes plus families. We’re not asking for financial support—just your okay and backing,” he said.
When Fitial asked for the type of support that the Games would need from the government, Stewart replied that the committee would need transportation, security, the use of Marianas High School, and possibly an upgrade of the facilities.
The governor expressed his enthusiasm for the Games, but explained that the current fiscal health of the CNMI is not well. Combined with reports of the planning committee’s lack of progress and the lack of time remaining to organize, Fitial said that he had no choice but to make the call to hand the hosting duties to a more suitable host.
Bob Coldeen, one of the organizers of the 1990 Micronesian Games, stepped up to offer that there was no aspect of the 2006 edition that would require more than four months of planning to achieve, and said that he could provide a financial plan by next Friday to prove it.
The CNMI’s chances of hosting of the Games hinge not only on the new committee’s ability to draw up a list of expenses, needs, and the plan to satisfy those needs, but on the hopes that the committee in Palau doesn’t decide to take over the hosting responsibilities this summer.
Reaching back to his experience as one of the organizers of the 1969 Micronesian Olympics, Fitial stressed the importance of the financial sub-committee if the group is to have a chance. Coldeen said that the 1990 Micronesian Games had only four major sponsors, but that this time around that he will be looking for individual companies to take over the sponsorship of individual sports.
The new committee will have plenty to do in the coming week, and will welcome assistance from all of members of the community to make the Games a reality.