The CNMI has not given up on its quest to have its athletes take part in the Olympics, according to Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan.
“I don’t have anything definite that I can say at this time, but as far as NMSA is concerned it’s our ultimate goal and dream to see our athletes to be able to participate in the Olympics just like many of our Oceania brothers and sisters,” he said during a media conference with Oceania National Olympic Committees officials at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium conference room.
ONOC officials were on island to help NMSA and the nine national sports federations involved in the 2022 Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games successfully hold the quadrennial event next year.
Joining Tan in the media briefing explaining the three-day “Management in Sporting Organizations” course under ONOC’s Oceania Sports Education Programme last Friday were ONOC officer-in-charge and chief administration officer Meli Cavu, ONOC chief communications officer Inoke Bainimarama, Guam National Olympic Committee board member and sport development officer Joey Miranda III, and Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 Organizing Committee CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta.
Tan said the CNMI is not alone in its quest for Olympic membership. In Oceania alone six other island-nations have knocked on the door of the International Olympic Committee—New Caledonia, Niue, Norfolk Island, Tahiti, Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna.
“We are one of the seven associate members. So we are not the only member within the Oceania family that is not an Olympic member. Maybe everyone has a unique case. We are examining what happened in the late ’80s because we did submit an application to IOC and for whatever reason I’m still trying to understand why we were not granted [membership].”
Tan admitted that being granted membership in the IOC will be a difficult and complicated journey, especially since he himself is new at the helm of NMSA.
“The initial findings that I have and I’m not even done yet is we have to go through hundreds of pages. You’re talking about communication back to the late ’80s and a lot of communication to the early to the late ’90s…We are reaching out to different stakeholders like people who were involved and in charge with NMASA at that time. In fact, [we’ve been] talking to them directly not only reading the communication with their signature on it we’re actually finding out from them a lot more [about] what exactly happened because the facts are important,” he said.
However, what’s clear according to Tan, is to make sure that NMSA will not go at it alone in its application for IOC membership.
“We need to reach out to the people that we know in the region…I’ve spent sometime within the sporting world to understand that this kind of quest you need a lot of support starting with our region. So as an approach and a strategy, we also need to engage the leadership within the Oceania family and explain to them what happened and hopefully we can also gain their support because they’re also part of the IOC family and they can be our biggest champion if we really have a case to really look back on our previous application.”
Tan said documents he’s seen so far indicate that the CNMI applied for IOC membership before 1996. That was the year IOC changed its bylaws where only nations that are part of the United Nations can become a member of the Olympic family.
Cavu, Bainimarama, and Miranda all said the CNMI successfully hosting the Mini Games next year is a step in the right direction as far as its decades-old IOC applications is concerned.
“It’s all about collaboration between all the key stakeholders. At the end of the day, it’s all about the athletes as well. Have the athletes join the national federations and have their house in order,” said Cavu.
For Bainimarama, the Mini Games is the perfect venue for the CNMI to show IOC what it can do as a sporting nation.
“The opportunity to showcase Saipan in the [Mini] Games is also going to help tick the box in your application for IOC membership. All eyes [will be] on Saipan,” he said.
Miranda, for his part, said the Mini Games will be a good litmus test for the CNMI and could ultimately help persuade IOC to reconsider the Commonwealth’s application.
“Putting this all together, your management and national federations and basically, as Meli, said ‘cleaning up your house’ and getting all your federations in the same line knowing that you are physically ready to handle all these obligations…. and center your athletes around everyone else because that’s the main purpose of sport, which is working with the athletes and putting the athletes in front. You guys have that and put together that with the application they (IOC) see that you’re already working to make sure that you’re in line with all the visions of the IOC,” he said.
Tan assured that he will try his best to move forward the CNMI’s application to the OIC.
“This is important enough for our athletes that at least we owe it to them that we do as much as we can. Not to say that we didn’t try,” he said.