The Pacific Games Council sees a lower number of participants in the CNMI-hosted Pacific Games due to the coronavirus pandemic and the limited events proposed for the competition.
PGC president Vidhya Lakhan, in an interview with reporters in Fiji, was quoted as saying, “we firmly believe that the 24 island-nations will be there for the Games but the size of the Games in terms of numbers taking part could be much lower than what one could expect of the normal Pacific Mini Games.”
In the 2017 Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu, over 1,500 athletes and officials participated in the quadrennial meet that featured 14 sports. In the next Mini Games, which was initially set for 2021, but was moved to 2022 to avoid clashing with the Tokyo Olympic Games, only six sports were suggested, while two more events may be considered pending approval of the PGC and its member association. The PGC required host country to have at least 12 sports for the Mini Games. However, the CNMI was allowed to scale down the competition and the budget—from $8 million to $3 million—after a series of discussions, as the Commonwealth needed to put its resources to the recovery efforts from Super Typhoon Yutu that hammered the islands in 2018.
Then less than two years after Yutu flattened the islands and a little over one year before the Mini Games come to Saipan, another crisis hit not only the CNMI, but the rest of the world. This pandemic, according to Lakhan, and the challenges it brought to the world, would limit the capabilities of the 24 nations to send delegates for the next Mini Games.
“As organizers we want to have a big Games but we have to be mindful of what is happening around us. So the prime objective will be to ensure that all the countries are there and the bigger the delegation, the better it is for us. But if the delegations are smaller, we will understand,” Lakhan was quoted as saying by Fiji Sun and Inside The Games.
Athletics, baseball, badminton, golf, triathlon, and beach volleyball, are the six sports initially proposed for the next Mini Games and the former is expected to draw the most number of participants. The medal-rich swimming was excluded from the list, as when discussion on the calendar of events for the competition was made, the former Kan Pacific Swimming Pool in Marpi has been closed. An initiative to reopen the 50-meter pool has started early this year, but was halted by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, tennis and weightlifting, are being considered to make the Mini Games program, which will be discussed in the PGC general assembly tentatively set this September on Saipan.