Chef de mission plays connect the dots
Bob Coldeen, the chef de mission of the CNMI delegation in the recent Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022, said the islands’ successful hosting of the quadrennial event wouldn’t have happened if the former Trust Territory capital didn’t host the Micronesian Olympics in 1969 and subsequently the Micronesian Games 37 years later in 2006.
“[In] 1973 I played some pickup baseball in Chuuk where I heard about their incredible gold medal game against Palau in 1969 at the Micro Olympics here.
Later on Saipan, I asked Tan Ko Palacios if he saw that game. He said he was the scorekeeper. I said, ‘wow.’ He said, ‘I still have the scoresheets.’ I said, ‘wow.’ With that, I could write a story. And as I was doing that I learned all about the Micro Olympics, how its significance went beyond fun and games, how they were used to connect peoples and cultures, an excuse to get together,” he said during Thursday’s Team NMI Celebration Dinner last Thursday at Kensington Resort.
The former sports broadcaster said the Micronesian Olympics was supposed to be every four years, but apathy and the changing political dynamics of the region resulted in the sporting event being shelved until the CNMI revived it as the Micronesian Games in 1990 on Saipan.
And you bet, Coldeen had a hand in the Micronesian Olympics/Micronesian Games making a comeback.
“…in 1988 I wrote a letter to Gov. Pete P. Tenorio, recommending he revive the Micro Olympics in 1989 for its 20th year anniversary. He agreed but we couldn’t get it done by then. That’s why the Micronesian Games resumed on Saipan in 1990. Due to trademark infringement, the word Olympics was changed to Games.”
While everyone already knows that the CNMI actually balked at hosting the 2022 Mini Games after being hit by back-to-back super typhoons, Coldeen disclosed that the 2006 Micro Games on Saipan also almost suffered the same fate after then governor Benigno R. Fitial wanted to cancel it due to austerity measures being implemented at the time.
“I feared that would be their death warrant and would be the end of them forever. That required some tough closed-door meetings. To his everlasting credit, governor Fitial reversed his decision and the Games went on successfully… That was significant because it gave the [Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association] confidence to ask the Pacific Games Council to host the Mini Games.”
NMASA is the precursor of the Northern Marianas Sports Association.
Coldeen then went on to congratulate all the local athletes that took part in the Mini Games that saw the CNMI medal in all sporting events and finish third in the medal standings with 16 gold medals, 13 silver, and nine bronze.
“I salute Team NMI and all nine federations for their excellence. All nine prepared their athletes well, with medals to show for it. All nine had their venues in tip-top shape, with nothing but praises from our visitors to show for it.”
But he reserved his highest praise to the CNMI National Baseball Team, who for Coldeen was the Games’ best team and its star pitcher, Josh Jones, its best athlete.
“At the end of the competition, each chef de mission, was asked to submit nominations for special awards to be selected by the Pacific Games Council. For the record, I nominated Joshua Jones as top male athlete and NMI Baseball as best team…Most people wanted to go see the best. Most people went to see baseball. Therefore, baseball was the best.”
Coldeen ended his message by presenting golf’s Zhimin Jin with the Outstanding Female Junior Athlete of Pacific Mini Games 2022 trophy. The 15-year-old from Marianas High School won the women’s gold of the Games.