Pini to help Tonga’s Pacific Games hosting


Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini officially retired from competitive swimming and will now focus his attention in helping Tonga host the XVI Pacific Games in Nuku’alofa in 2019.

Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini, right, in a file photo from the 2003 Pacific Games in Suva, Fiji. (Mark Rabago)

Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini, right, in a file photo from the 2003 Pacific Games in Suva, Fiji. (Mark Rabago)

Tongan sports officials found Pini as their ally after the Pacific kingdom’s capability of hosting the quadrennial Games was cast into doubt due to funding problems in a report by Australia.

Tonga Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva along with Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee vice president Ahongalu Fusimalohi told Radio Australia that they are concerned on their hosting of the Pacific Games.

Pohiva said that Tonga’s “financial position was at an unsatisfactory level and it might be impossible to prepare well for it.”

That’s where Pini comes in as Papua New Guinea’s swimming sensation, who collared seven gold medals in last month’s Pacific Games in Port Moresby, eager to do his share in making sure Tonga’s hosting would pass regional and international standards.

Pini swam for PNG for the last time making the XV Pacific Games his swan song. He would now concentrate his efforts, time, and resources representing athletes on the Pacific Games Council the next four years.

Pini was voted by his peers as the athletes’ representative to the Pacific Games Council.

Tongan National Olympic Committee secretary general Takitoa Taumopeau is confident that they could pull it through with the likes of Pini and others out to lend a hand.

“I can say that in our bid we kind of have a thing about a walking games. What we’re proposing, or what we plan for in 2019, is just concentrating on two main sporting clusters. So we can work something around those kinds of principals,” he said.

Pacific Games Council executive director Andrew Minogue said, in another interview, that Tonga needs to be modest in its expectations on the impact of the Pacific Games.

“These facilities in PNG, they’re tremendous and they obviously do fit a requirement of this country going forward, but that’s not the template that has to be used for other countries,” Minogue said.

“I think that’s a real key message that we have to try and get to our future hosts, not just Tonga but the ones who are going to start putting their hand up for 2023.”

Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somarem during the closing ceremony of last month’s Port Moresby Games, also said that PNG is ready and willing to assist Tonga with its hosting four years from now.

Tonga Games Organizing Committee president Lady Robyn Tu’ivakano, who accepted the Pacific Games flag, said that His Majesty King Tupou VI and Tonga will be waiting with open arms to welcome all participating nations in 2019.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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