TOGETHER, WE CAN
On behalf of the Northern Marianas Sports Association (NMSA), we are extremely proud and thankful for the leadership of Governor Ralph DLG Torres, the NMPMG 2022 Games Organizing and Oversight Committees, and all who stepped up for the successful staging of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022. Watching our community gather to cheer on and rally behind Team NMI while warmly supporting the visiting teams shows how sports can bring people together.
During the Mini Games, I watched our community extend the Håfa Adai and Tirow hospitality that left our visitors feeling welcomed in the Marianas. I witnessed our athletes and officials endure the intense heat and mounting pressure during the games to deliver a great performance in front of the home crowd. I also saw how people from the government and private sectors came out to volunteer their time and stayed late to enjoy the matches.
All of these were accomplished as one community when we decided to honor our commitment and move forward with hosting the Games despite the many challenges we faced these past four years.
It’s been almost a month since the close of the Mini Games. However, its positive impact on the sports community as well as other sectors will remain for years to come. I am excited about what’s ahead for our athletes now that they have improved facilities in which to train. The athletes performed at the top of their game and gained valuable experience competing against high-level teams. I am certain that the continued support they will receive from the private and public sectors will positively affect the future of sports in the Marianas.
A boost to sports tourism
The CNMI welcomed more than 1,200 visitors—including athletes, coaches, family members, and officials. The influx of visitors coming into meant spending was at an all-time high. On top of that, special discounts were extended to Mini Games athletes, delegations, and officials, making it more attractive for our visitors to take advantage of the local goods we have. With direct spending at the hotels, restaurants, and venues will stimulate our local economy, keep facilities in business and our residents employed.
Priscilla Iakopo, Marianas Visitors Authority’s managing director, said, “With the success of the NMPMG 2022, and the quality facilities that was constructed for the Games, the Marianas has great potential to host and attract regional sports clubs and sporting events to boost sports tourism. Rota, Tinian, and Saipan have been a destination mostly focused on leisure or corporate travel but tapping into the sports tourism market opens up for a more diverse group of visitors.”
In past years, international teams like the Kintetsu Buffaloes from Japan, Lotte Giants from South Korea, and the Ireland National Football team have attracted fans and media attention just for having their trainings conducted on Saipan. MVA’s annual sporting events such as the XTERRA Triathlon, Ironman Triathlon, and the Konqer regional obstacle course have attracted athletes from six continents, including participants from as far away as Europe.
Having Rota host the Mini Games’ triathlon on their island opens up more possibilities of doing an annual triathlon for everyone to enjoy. Tinian was able to offer the Tachogña Beach for the Mini Games’ beach volleyball competition. This is a testament that Rota and Tinian have what it takes for the CNMI to effectively promote sports tourism on all three islands. Our goal is to continue to keep our facilities in shape for the community to enjoy and to host off-island teams that need training camp venues.
Developing sports culture and promoting an active lifestyle
Team NMI won an astounding 38 medals (16 gold, 13 silver, and nine bronze), which was more than the total medals the NMI won in all past Mini Games (25) and the Pacific Games (32). Team NMI performed beyond expectations with this impressive medal tally, and I hope this encourages more young people to get into sports, not just for the hardware but for its countless benefits.
Esther Muña, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., said it all when asked what’s the impact of sports on our community. “Participating in regular physical activity helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, boosts your confidence, and may lead to more social interaction. Physically active adults and children are more likely to report having a better quality of life,” said Muña.
As the co-chairman of GCEA, I fully support the development of our national sports program for that same reason. Public School System Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said that at the core of the PSS curriculum, they are expanding efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle for students, on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan, through PSS’ Athletic Program.
Athletes who represented Team NMI in the Mini Games are either students or were former students who took part in interscholastic programs, another key component in developing a sports culture in the NMI. NMSA and its member federations are committed to partnering with PSS and local private schools to develop future national athletes from Rota, Tinian, and Saipan.
Dr. Ada noted that for the past two years and in partnership with the CNMI State Board of Education, PSS expanded its sports and athletics program by initiating partnerships and collaborations with community stakeholders. He added, “With the new facilities that are available, this would further support PSS’ initiatives to promote a healthy lifestyle and well-being of our more than 10,000 students in elementary, middle, and high school throughout Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. I can only remain optimistic that this partnership will be sustainable for the next 10 years.”
Building local capacity
Thanks to our partners from the Northern Marianas College, the Mini Games aired all nine sports for the world to enjoy. After the games, NMC certified 70 individuals who volunteered to help stream the sports online. The acquisition of new broadcasting equipment allowed the Marianas greater exposure on the world stage and hopefully attract travelers to our shores. As a result, NMC can certify more individuals with newfound broadcasting skills, opening possibilities for new careers.
Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero, NMC president, said, “With the 2022 Pacific Mini Games, the Northern Marianas broke the record for the most livestreams ever in Pacific Games history with more than half a million viewers from around the world. At the forefront of this was NMC, which worked with the Games Organizing Committee to broadcast nine sports, hundreds of athletes, and thousands of supporters across multiple venues on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.”
He added, “Achieving this herculean feat would not have been possible without the videography, computer, and broadcasting equipment that the committee procured. Just as important and impressive was the cadre of about 70 broadcasting volunteers that the college trained using a curriculum we developed with the support and endorsement of the Oceanic National Olympic Committees. Most of the volunteers had never even touched a video camera before the games and yet were able to stream dozens of games is a testament to their hard work and the curriculum developed by the college. With that, we now have both the equipment and the curriculum to launch a new media communications program at the college.”
With the NMI hosting the Mini Games, it also meant that we have newly certified officials who can run competitions. Baseball recertified umpires; badminton gained Pacific accredited umpires and line judges; volleyball had referees; and the six other sports officials also completed training. This boosted our capability to officiate and manage local and international competitions.
As I look back to when we were hit by Super Typhoon Soudelor, followed by Yutu and the COVID-19 pandemic, who would have thought we would be here, retelling stories of triumphs accomplished through the community’s efforts!
Continuing this momentum in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, we thank Gov. Torres for his commitment of $475,000 to support athletes invited for representation at off-island sporting events. We look forward to sending off our athletes to represent the entire CNMI in the 2023 Pacific Games and the Micronesian Games.
Once again, we would like to thank our community for making this historic event possible. We did it, and we must continue the collaboration to achieve more goals for the Marianas. Together, We Can!
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jerry Tan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Jerry Tan is the president of the Northern Marianas Sports Association, chief executive officer of Tan Holdings, and the co-chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As a recognized entrepreneur and employer, Jerry is a passionate advocate for volunteerism and giving back to the community.