Team Samoa joined delegations from around the Pacific for the opening ceremony of the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu last night.
The opening ceremony took place at the Korman Stadium. Athletes from 24 countries and territories are contesting 14 different sports over the coming 12 days.
The athletes were formally welcomed to Vanuatu at a ceremony in the capital of Port Vila on Sunday, which featured a range of cultural performances, including a rousing rendition of the Mini Games theme song “Ignite the Spirit Within”.
The opening came after three sports were played on the first day.
Football, tennis and table tennis took centre stage yesterday.
Australia and New Zealand are making their Mini Games debut in Port Vila this week in weightlifting, having declined to enter teams in rugby sevens.
The President of the Pacific Games Council, Vidhya Lakhan, said the participation of Australia and New Zealand would ensure the event is recognised around the world.
“Most of the continents have their own Continental Games,” Lakhan said.
“We have the Pacific Games but it is not recognised as the Continental Games because two nations in our region are not allowed to take part.
“So if we want the Continental Games recognition then Australia and New Zealand have to be a part of the Pacific Games,” he said.
Some countries have expressed fears that if the two regional sporting giants became part of the Games they would dominate the event and take most of the medals.
But Vidhya Lakhan argued Pacific nations had already proved themselves competitive.
“They took part in four sports in Port Moresby and they did not dominate. We took medals off them, we beat them,” he said.
“Same thing will happen here [in Vanuatu] in the next two weeks and going forward that’s what will happen, so taking these small steps to convince our membership that having Australia and New Zealand is good for us, it raises the bar in terms of presentation, the quality of our own competition.”
Lakhan said the Council’s Executive Board believed, in time, Australia and New Zealand will become a regular part of the Pacific Games.
“So at the moment they are coming by invitation and we are hoping that in the next 12 to 18 months we will make some changes to our constitution which will grant them some level of membership, be it associate or whatever, of the Games Council.”