All roads will lead to the Oleai Sports Complex today as the opening ceremony of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 unfurls at the facility’s track & field.
The opening parade will be led by 2021 NMSA athletes of the year Jason Tarkong and Zarinae Sapong with the former carrying the CNMI flag and the latter the U.S. flag.
The two athletes will be followed by the ceremonial flag presentation. After benediction and posting of colors by the Marianas High School ROTC, the U.S. and CNMI anthems will be sung.
Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez will deliver the invocation with va’a’s Kaya Rain Rasa and baseball’s Antonio Rogolifoi reading the athlete’s and technical official’s oath, respectively.
Mini Games Organizing Committee chair Marco Peter, Pacific Games Council president Vidya Lakhan, and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will then deliver the opening remarks.
The Mini Games torch relay will then conclude the ceremony with weightlifting’s Antonette Labausa, Tarkong, triathlon’s Leo Wania, tennis’ Bobby Cruz, golf’s J.J. Atalig, NMSA’s Laurie Peterka, baseball’s Tyrone Omar, and badminton’s Nate Guerrero making up the team.
The last leg of the relay and the one who would lit the Mini Games cauldron will be Dr. Kurt Barnes, an NMI Sports Hall of Famer and one of the organizers of the 1969 Micronsian Olympics, which is the precursor of the Micronesian Games.
“Humbled to be chosen to light the eternal flame,” said Barnes, who flew especially back from California to fulfill the honor.
Three days before the opening ceremony of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres vowed to establish a scholarship program for CNMI athletes.
“I want to acknowledge all of the sports and because of all the things that you’ve done I’ve created a scholarship program for all athletes going abroad and staying here. So, I’m making a shoutout to all of you,” he said during the Team Presentation event last Tuesday at the Saipan World Resort.
He also said being part of the CNMI’s first hosting of the Mini Games is a legacy for local athletes taking part in the Games.
“Everyone in this room you represent the CNMI and 10 years and 15 years from now you will be in the history books of the CNMI. I want to thank you on behalf of my wife, Diann, for representing the CNMI.
Torres added that the double of whappy of super typhoons Soudelor in 2015 and Yutu in 2018 almost torpedoed the Commonwealth’s first-ever hosting of the Mini Games.
“But you know what made us do it, it’s you guys—all of you! It sounds corny but it’s true because you represent this flag that we have here.”
He also said that aside from the cash incentives he promised to athletes who medal—as much as $6,000 for gold—coaches of medal-winning local athletes “won’t be left behind” as the CNMI government will also be giving them a reward.
Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan said it’s nothing short of a miracle the CNMI is now looking forward to the opening ceremony of the Mini Games.
He said while First World countries Japan and China were able to host the Summer and Winter Olympics recently but they were held sans foreign visitors.
“Challenge remains for everyone who wants to host,” adding that just like the CNMI delaying the Mini Games from 2021 to 2022, the Asian Games has also been delayed from this year to 2023.
Tan also said without Torres’ support, the CNMI wouldn’t have reversed course, and taken back the Games’ hosting, while also acknowledging the NMSA board, the COVID-19 Task Force, and the Mini Games Organizing Committee for their hard work in making sure the Commonwealth would be able to deliver the Games.
“We never gave up. We knew it would all come down to the wire but we knew we would deliver the Games…You guys are representing the flag so go Team CNMI!” he said.
Team NMI chef de mission Bob Coldeen challenged the 125-strong CNMI delegation to make these next couple of weeks the highlight of their lives.
“You are also playing for your future past. In the future when you are ancient like me, this will be your past so you want it to be as memorable and wonderful as possible. Seize the moment and know this, not every winner gets a medal. Winning is doing the best you have ever done. Personal satisfaction is pure gold that cannot be stolen or lost or misplaced. You are your own personal gold standard.”
The longtime sports broadcaster also encouraged local athletes to spread goodwill to every athlete taking part in the Games.
“Take advantage of this situation. If you get to know one person from another island, that will enhance your experience… and it will enhance their experience. Be friendly and engaging. So many times it’s the little things, casual interactions, that create special moments that are the stuff of lifetime memories,” he said.