CHEF DE MISSION BOB COLDEEN
A story of celebration, of the coming together not just of neighbors of Pacific Island nations but, most importantly, of the Northern Mariana Islands as its own community: This is the legacy that the Pacific Mini Games 2022 will leave to those who will take part in this historic sporting event. For the CNMI’s Chef de Mission Bob Coldeen, this is what this whole nine days of celebration is all about.
With 7,000 nightly sportscasts under his belt spread over 28 years of being the CNMI’s preeminent sportscaster, Coldeen brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience he shares with the islands’ sporting community.
The CNMI is not new to hosting big sporting events, with the 1990 and 2006 Micronesian Games being held on Saipan and attended by delegates from 10 countries within the Western Pacific region. What makes hosting this Mini Games different were the setbacks that the CNMI had to overcome to get to this point, beginning with the devastation of Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020, and cutbacks in funding. These challenges were enough to make the CNMI reconsider hosting the event.
Looking back on his previous experience helping with the Micronesian Games, Coldeen said the impact of these Mini Games reaches a wide spectrum of the CNMI community—from the positive effects it will have on the local tourism industry to boosting the depressed economy to uplifting the deflated spirit of a disheartened community.
In addition, compared to other sporting events, this Mini Games has much more extensive contributions to the local business sector, Coldeen said. “This is generating more resources by far. Back in 1990, we were highly dependent on the government to shoulder the costs but what we see now is the business sector stepping up to the plate, generously giving financial and in-kind support. Expense-wise, this event dwarfs previous games. It is through the generosity of our local businesses that has helped us shoulder the costs of this Mini Games,” Coldeen explained.
He considers the level of corporate sponsorship alone for this event to be unparalleled. Another plus factor is the fast-tracked rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by the typhoon. “Looking at it in the long term, hosting the Mini Games is helping us get back on out feet. What usually takes three years to build was rebuilt in three months. That is very impressive,” said Coldeen.
He considers the timing of this event as an opportune moment for everyone. The world is coming out of a two-year pandemic while the CNMI, on the other hand, will be getting a much needed boost in spirit to overcome the setbacks of the past four years.
“This is a psychological lift for all of us. It has not been a good couple of years for us. As a sports reporter, I saw everything just ground to a halt due to so much damage but what this Mini Games has allowed us to do is to get back up to speed and get everybody excited about playing again. What we are seeing are all our athletes, with all the trials and negativity, get ready for these games and really pushing it,” Coldeen said.
The excitement brought by the Mini Games that is usually just confined to athletes and the sporting community has now spread like wildfire, bringing in the entire island community to take pride in what they will showcase at the events.
The road to making the 2022 Pacific Mini Games a successful and memorable event was fraught with difficulties but Coldeen had no doubt that the Northern Marianas had what it takes to stage the Games. “My experience with the community in 1990 and 2006 and also in other meets is that our athletes and our sporting community, we all eventually come together. I have complete confidence in our ability to do this. I know everyone will come out of this event with a very good experience,” he said.
For this veteran sportscaster who has written countless stories of sweet triumphs and agonizing defeats, this Mini Games is also a story about the resilience of the Chamorro people. “The theme ‘Rise to the Challenge’… is what it really is. We are literally rising up, building up from the ground. Reconstruction was in full swing, just take a look at the different venues. As far as what I have seen, it’s all coming together even if it seems it’s all last-minute,” he added.
For Coldeen, sports is a reason to celebrate, to enjoy triumphs, and all the other things that come with athletics. As he leads the host island’s contingent to the Mini Games, Coldeen hopes to see everyone spreading goodwill, camaraderie, and sportsmanship, with everyone enjoying themselves and leaving with a good feeling about their experience in the CNMI.
Coldeen leaves this message to everyone who will be at the Mini Games: “I would like to thank everybody for coming—sports fans and non-sports fans—just everyone who is using these Games as a means to lift the Commonwealth community up in so many ways—economically, emotionally. Most importantly, just go and have fun!”
Teri Flores (Correspondent)