Games Council disappointed by Tonga’s withdrawal
SUVA, Fiji-May 18: 2:21pm(RNZI): The Pacific Games Council says the Tongan government’s withdrawal from hosting the 2019 Games is “an extremely disappointing and confusing decision”.
The Council was formally advised of the government’s decision to pull out on Wednesday, because of financial concerns, five days after the move was approved by cabinet.
The Pacific Games Council said it was not consulted in the decision and no attempt was made to seek their assistance to address the Government’s financial concerns over staging the Games.
“We have a contract that we signed in 2012, when our General Assembly awarded Tonga the Games and there are termination and suspension clauses in the contract,” said Council CEO Andrew Minogue.
“So there are procedures that can be activated if one of the parties wishes to not go ahead and there’s a process that needs to be followed and of course in this case it has not been followed.
“So that’s why I think it’s come in a shock and it’s why we’ve said in our statement we haven’t been consulted in the decision,” Mr Minogue said.
“I think if finances are a concern of the Tongan Government – and I have no reason to doubt that that’s a concern for them – the Games Council would always stand ready to address those concerns where possible by looking at the size and the scope of the Games.”
The Pacific Games Council said it believed preparations had been on track for staging the event despite interference by the Prime Minister in the workings of the independent Games Organising Committee.
“Tonga hosted the Pacific Mini Games back in 1989 and there’s some legacy venues from those Games, like the Atele Stadium and Queen Salote Hall, said Mr Minogue.
“Those are very very good, very very compact venues that we’re happy to use in 2019.
“That’s a very good foundation for a lot of the sports and the Chinese Government have committed to building facilities at Tonga High School, the main (Teufaiva) stadium is being upgraded and Tonga is actually on the verge of having all the facilities that they need to run the Games.
“And that’s why the decision is so confusing and so difficult to understand,” he said.
Council President Vidhya Lakhan, said the government’s withdrawal from hosting is “an extremely disappointing and confusing decision which robs Tonga’s youth and future generations of the golden opportunity to receive badly needed sport and recreation facilities.”
He said “Tonga’s citizens and businesses will also miss out on the many vital employment and commercial opportunities associated with the heightened economic activity around the Games.”
Andrew Minogue said the Pacific Games Council’s Executive Board would hold an emergency meeting next weekend to discuss the way forward.
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