The next nine days marks another milestone for the CNMI, as it plays host to the Pacific Mini Games from June 17 to June 25,2022.
The Pacific Mini Games 2022 by far is the most ambitious sporting event that the CNMI has hosted, with more than 1,000 off-island athletes, officials, and guests, and thousands of the island’s residents expected to attend the events that will be held on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
But the task of hosting the event did not come easy. The widespread devastation brought by super typhoons Soudelor and Yutu in 2015 and 2018, the global pandemic, and funding woes were more than enough challenges for the CNMI to consider at one point withdrawing from hosting the Games. But true to the Pacific Mini Games’ theme, the CNMI has risen up to the challenge.
For Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan, hosting this event is not just about extending the warm hospitality of which the islands and its people are known for, nor is it about rolling out the red carpet with guests leaving happy and satisfied with their experience. For Tan, the road to hosting this momentous event is a story of the islands and its people’s resilience.
“The CNMI faced several challenges that made us rethink about hosting this event. But, our sporting community had a plan and our government supported it and so we said, let’s do this,” said Tan.
“Everyone in the CNMI, from our government officials to our business leaders, both in the the private and public sectors and, most importantly, our community all pooled their resources together to make the Pacific Mini Games a reality. It just goes to show that teamwork and the spirit of unity and Marianas pride is alive and well on our islands,” Tan added.
Local funding for infrastructure had been scarce since the CNMI decided to go on recovery mode after the back-to-back super typhoons. But thanks to government grants and despite the delays, all have come together at the very last minute. The Oleai Sports Complex’ track oval has been resurfaced, the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium has been repaired and is now air-conditioned, while the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Baseball Field and American Memorial Part tennis courts got their long-overdue facelifts. Even the Marianas High School has undergone improvement works for the weightlifting competition. The Oleai oval will host athletics and the opening ceremony, the Ada Gym will have the badminton competition. Other sports that will be featured in this year’s Games are baseball, beach volleyball, golf, tennis, triathlon, and va’a.
“Our government has invested a lot on these projects and the return is almost immediate. The impact alone on CNMI tourism is immense since we are hosting thousands of people who will need food, lodging and transportation among others,” he said.
With the slew of visitors expected on the islands for the nine-day Games, spending will definitely be at an all-time high. Island businesses have been beefing up their inventories to ensure they have ample goods available, restaurants have special discounts for guests and local residents alike while shelves of local souvenirs have been stacked full in the various retail stores and souvenir shops on the islands.
“As we move closer to the opening of the Mini Games, you can’t help but notice how excited everyone is to welcome our visitors. Aside from the generosity of our business community who have made substantial financial contributions, it is our community and their willingness to volunteer that will make this event a truly memorable one,” Tan said.
Tan is confident that CNMI athletes will perform well during the Games despite missing training during the lockdowns.
“Everyone suffered from this pandemic and the impact on athletes were definitely striking. It came to a point where they were training individually in order to remain in shape and be ready for competition when sporting events such as this will again be a part of community activities. I have full confidence that the CNMI contingent’s hard work will pay off and they will reap their rewards of their hard work,” Tan said.
Together We Can
With preparation for the Games entering its final moments, Tan has these words of gratitude to all who have invested and believed that the Commonwealth has what it takes to put its game face out for the world to see.
“Overall, a ton of gratitude is due to everyone involved in hosting this year’s Games. We all have given more than what is expected of us. A big ‘thank you’ to the secretariat of the Pacific Mini Games for working with us to make sure we stayed on course. A big kudos as well to the Olympic committees of the different participating countries for their seal of approval and endorsement that the Commonwealth is ready for this moment,” Tan said.
“As we move forward to regain a semblance of our old lives back again, it’s now time to allow ourselves to experience and again retell stories of triumph, of celebrations, of togetherness. This is what the Pacific Mini Games is to the NMI. This is what we hope our visitors will take home with them and remember,” said Tan.
…So, let the Games begin!
Teri Flores (Correspondent)