The Pacific Games Council’s decision to acquiesce to the postponement of the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands will conflict with the school calendar of the student-athletes of the CNMI, according to the Northern Marianas Sports Association.
“This decision presents a challenge for our student-athletes as they not only will miss classes in order to participate in the Games in the Solomon Islands. They may have to arrange to take exams before the Games or make up for them afterwards,” said NMSA executive director Carlene Sablan
Last week, the council approved the Solomon Islands’ request to postpone the kickout of the quadrennial event from the original July 16-29 2023 schedule to Nov. 19- Dec. 2, 2023. It cited delays brought about by the COVID-19 to the start of its venue construction program, which includes the $53-million national stadium in Honiara that has a capacity for 10,000 visitors with 1,000 VIP seats.
Several sports federations in the CNMI queried by Saipan Tribune said they are still willing to send their athletes despite the change of dates for the 2023 Pacific Games.
“As in previous years, yes it’s our indentation to send a athletes to the Solomons in 2023. It will be quite challenge with the new dates being late in the year. In our region it’s normally cross country season. But of course with the current situation we just need to find a way to adapt to changes,” said Northern Marianas Athletics secretary general Robin Sapong.
He added NMA always welcomes competition whether local or off-island, especially since their athletes have been on a holding pattern this past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also plan to send a team to the Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands in 2022. In addition, we also plan to send a delegation the same year at the World Athletics Championship in Oregon, which is from July 15 to July 24, 2022. It’s good to see opportunities for competition but the main challenge will be traveling around the region with limited daily flights” said Sapong.
For Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president and many-time CNMI national tennis coach Jeff Race, CNMI sports federations should take it one at a time—in this case concentrate on next year’s Pacific Mini Games in the CNMI and the Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands later in the year—as well as extend some sympathy to the hosting nation.
“I think that COVID-19 makes us need to be understanding and just roll with the punches. Right now my focus is on 100% effort toward summer 2022. We’ll see what happens after that. Obviously those dates could be a problem for teams with college players on board. We’ll just have to respect their situation. We here in the CNMI have certainly had our own issues about our Games so we should have some understanding of where they are coming from,” he said.
Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee, for his part, said, of course, they would love to send their men’s or women’s teams to the Honiara Pacific Games, but unlike other sports, the CNMI needs to earn a medal in next year Pacific Mini Games to qualify.
“We would love to but we need to get past the 2022 Micro Games first to earn our spot,” he said.