The head of a delegation from the International Monetary Fund, which has just spent two weeks in Tonga, has told Pacific Beat that an organising committee has only recently been formed, and a CEO is yet to be appointed.
Andrew Minogue is the Pacific Games Council's Executive Director and he's comfortable with what he describes as the IMF's measured approach.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Jookyung Ree, senior economist, International Monetary Fund; Andrew Minogue, Executive Director, Pacific Games Council
MINOGUE: I think their comments are quite reasonable, I think the most important comment from the IMF delegate is that the government remains fully committed delivering the games into there. Certainly our understanding from the discussions that we've had with the Tonga Olympic Committee officials in recent days up here in Guam, where the ONOC Annual General Assembly was held and I'd also endorse the comments about the scale of the games. The Pacific Games Council doesn't make demands on any of our host countries at big enormous venues have to be constructed. We're very, very open to creative ways. I think they were his words to deliver the games, in particular, with some of the games venues. So no, I think those comments are quite reasonable and don't cause any alarm to us at all.
EWART: I'm thinking though that the last games in New Caledonia were obviously a very big affair and I'm expecting that Papua New Guinea may be even bigger next year. If you then go to Tonga in 2019, and it turns out to be a scaled down event, will that not sort of take the steam out of the progress of the Pacific Games to some degree?
MINOGUE: Well, I think it depends what you mean by scaled down. New Caledonia had 27 sports Papua New Guinea will have 28 and Tonga has confirmed as a 26 sport program, so in terms of sports and athletes that will be participating, I don't think you are going to find there's terribly much difference.
Papua New Guinea are going to have some bigger venues and New Caledonia as well. I mean as just an example, both of those host countries basically reconstructed their National Universities with accommodation blocks to house all of the athletes.
Tonga is not proposing to do that, they're going back to a model that Fiji and Samoa have used, which is using the local schools, high schools, to accommodate the athletes and we're quite happy for them to do and it's what we expect them to do.
When you talk about the size of the competition venues, again, the only thing that we're concerned is that the field of play and the venues are suitable for the competition and the athletes, so we're not asking and we don't expect major Olympic or Commonwealth Games standard venues to be build. So that's why I'm quite confident with the words of the IMF delegate. I think creative thinking is in Tonga and we need to be able to demonstrate that the Pacific Games aren't the exclusive right of the sort of the biggest and richest countries. We do want countries with populations of around 200-thousand to be able to feel that they can host this event and you don't need to be Papua New Guinea with seven million or New Caledonia with a funding stream directly from France to be able host the games.
EWART: One thing though that Tonga will need of course, is the finance in order to put on the games and Jookyung Ree from the IMF did suggest that at the moment it's not clear where that finance is coming from. The suggestion I think has always been that China may have a big part to play in helping Tonga finance the games. Do you know where they're at with that? I mean is that grounds for concern, because plainly without the finance, there is a problem?
MINOGUE: Ah yeah, there would be, but I think if you look back over our history, if you take Papua New Guinea, which is self-financing and New Caledonia out of the picture, and New Caledonia's funding was also self-financing with a little bit from France. Most of our Pacific Games hosts rely on external donors, usually it's China, and those aren't necessarily confirmed five years out. We've still got a long way to go and we do expect that those funding sources will be secured, but not necessarily right now, probably in the next year or two we'd be looking to make sure that's in place. And my understanding up in Tonga from meetings that we've had up there over the last couple of years since they've been awarded the games, is that Tonga is not the only option. I think the Japanese government plays a role in some of the education development, and as I said, we're looking at schools, Tonga College, and some of the other schools up there to deliver the athlete's village. And that's probably the most critical piece of infrastructure of all, that's the place we're you've actually got to house four-thousand odd participants for the games and so the Japanese government I think is being talked to quite seriously about some of those developments. So I think Tonga does have options, but it's not a concern to us at this point that those aren't nailed down just yet.