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PGC commences legal action after Tonga’s Pacific Games exit

The Pacific Games Council (PGC) has launched legal proceedings against the Tongan government following its decision to pull out of hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, while Fiji has said it is not interested in a new bidding process that has been launched.

The PGC has now formally terminated its hosting agreement with Tonga after a fresh deadline passed for the country’s government to reconsider its decision. The PGC received a letter from the Tongan government in May expressing the country’s wish to withdraw its hosting rights, citing financial concerns.

The PGC labelled the withdrawal as a “confusing decision” but made a final effort to ensure the Games remained in Tonga by granting a one-month window for local organisers to demonstrate they could still host the event. The window expired on June 30.

However, Tonga’s Prime Minister, ‘Akillisi Pōhiva, earlier in June said the decision to withdraw would not be reversed. Pōhiva refused to provide financial backing to the event and talks between the Prime Minister and PGC officials did not result in a compromise being reached.

Hosting rights were first assigned in 2012 and PGC chief executive Andrew Minogue has now said that a solicitor in Tonga has been engaged and the Council will now pursue damages through the courts.

Minogue told Radio New Zealand: “That's an important statement for us to make. We had a contract, a binding contract. The government unilaterally walked away from it without any consultation – that's not behaviour we think should be ignored or rewarded in any way so yeah we will be seeking legal redress for that.”

He added: “We're not a money-hungry organisation, we're a very lean outfit, we've never had a lot of resources and I don't think we'll ever have a lot of resources in the future. It's not about money, it's about the principle of walking away from a contract and we all put five years, or almost five years, of work into planning for the Games in 2019 to be in Tonga and we were contractually bound with the Government and with (local organising committee) TASNAOC to do that. I think it's a very important statement of principle – you just can't walk away from those agreements unilaterally.”

The PGC has now launched a process to find a new host for the multi-sport event, with a final decision expected by the end of August. However, Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) chief executive and general secretary, Lorraine Mar, has said her country will not alter a decision made last month that it will not seek to host the Games.

“Yes, the position won't change and no Fiji will not bid,” Mar said, according to the Fiji Times.