Lakhan: CNMI raised the bar


Pacific Games Council president Vidya Lakhan makes his remarks during the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 closing ceremony last Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex. (NMPMG2022/ANDO AGULTO)

In a spectacular end to an exciting 10-day event, Pacific Games Council president Vidya Lakhan praised the CNMI last Friday during the closing ceremony at the Oleai Sports Complex for raising the bar in hosting the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 after overcoming many challenges.

“You overcame the challenges of the recent typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic, you forgot your own pain and sufferings, and devoted your time and energy in preparing to host the Pacific Mini Games,” he said in his speech.

Lakhan went on to list what the CNMI did well as a host for the Games and said, “In doing so, you raised the bar in many areas. For the first time in the history of the Pacific Games, all the delegations were housed in hotels instead of schools converted into dormitories. The critical areas of food and Games transportation were all superb. I understand that this is one of the largest multinational events you have hosted in CNMI. There has been nothing but praise for the manner in which you all performed,” he said.

“To succeed in any endeavor, in any undertaking you need support, you need resources, and you need funding. In this regard, firstly, I thank Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, his Cabinet, and his government for all the support provided in ensuring we had a successful Games in CNMI. Secondly, I thank the corporate citizens of CNMI, the many sponsors, for joining hands with the Games Organizing Committee in making things happen,” added Lakhan.

“I was told by one of your legislators, that in the CNMI, your people live in the same country, you breathe the same air, you all eat the same food, you all see the same sun and the same moon, and at night, when the lights go out in the bedrooms, you all do the same thing, always united in purpose,” he said.

Mini Games Organizing Committee CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta is flanked by the Marianas High School ROTC color guard as he makes his way back to the grandstand with the Pacific Games Council flag on hand. (NMPMG2022/ANDO AGULTO)

“Well, you did unite in purpose in hosting these Games. You rose to the challenge and made us all proud!”
He then lauded Team NMI’s tenacity and performance throughout the Games and said “you have had your best performance ever at these Games, and in front of your own people; your performances were exceptional.”
“Every citizen of CNMI must be proud of your achievements as we, the Pacific Games Council, are proud of your achievements. To the people of CNMI, as we prepare to leave your shores, we say ‘congratulations. Thank you for your hospitality, thank you for a wonderful and memorable Games,’” said Lakhan.

In the medal tally after the Games, NMI placed third overall among the 20 participating countries, and collectively won 16 gold medals, 13 silver medals, and eight bronze medals, for a total of 38 medals.

NMI teams won in each of the nine sport categories in this year’s Games, garnering a medal or more in weightlifting, badminton, tennis, baseball, va’a, golf, athletics, triathlon, and beach volleyball.

The last time Team NMI joined the Pacific Games was in 2019 in Samoa and won three gold medals and one silver medal for a total of four medals.

With close to 1,000 spectators attending the closing ceremony in person and more watching the livestream, the closing ceremony highlights included the parade of the 20 participating countries, similar to the opening ceremony, cultural Chamorro and Carolinian dances, the announcement of the female and male athletes of the Games, both from Papua New Guinea, the ceremonial Pacific Games flag presentation to the next host country, Palau, by Mini Games Organizing Committee CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta, appreciation plaque presentations to acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider and MGOC chair Marco Peter, extinguishing of the Games cauldron flames, and a vibrant 20-minute fireworks show to officially close off the Games.

Turning over the Pacific Games flag
Palau National Olympic Committee secretary general Joyleen Baklai Temengil received the Pacific Games flag from Babauta and said in her speech, “On behalf of my team Palau 2022, Palau PGA president… honorable President Surangel Whipps Jr., of the Republic of Palau, the chair of the Palau Pacific Mini Games 2025 Organizing Committee… and the people of Palau, I’m honored to receive the Games’ flag. Congratulations to all the athletes in the Northern Mariana Islands for an exceptional Games. Biba CNMI! We look forward to hosting and welcoming you once again to the north, and this time to welcome you to the Republic of Palau [in] 2025… Thank you, congratulations everyone. We love you.”

Temengil then directed everyone’s attention to the big screen where a video of Palau and its athletes were on display for everyone in attendance to see and expect in the Games there in 2025, and was greeted with rounds of applause. Team Palau’s excitement was not contained as scenes from their home country’s baseball field, track and field, oceans, and scenery were on display for the athletes and audience.
Babauta and Temengil then graced the track with a little dance of cha-cha to the beat of the Mini Games 2022 theme song as the fireworks exploded in the skies and officially closed a historic moment in the CNMI.

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at

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