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PGC grants Tonga extra time to resolve Pacific Games saga

The Pacific Games Council (PGC) has made a final effort to ensure the 2019 Pacific Games remains in Tonga by granting a one-month window for local organisers to demonstrate they can still host the multi-sport event.

Earlier this month, the PGC labelled the Tongan government’s withdrawal from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games due to financial concerns as a “confusing decision.” Concerns over Tonga’s hosting of the Games emerged this month, but confirmation was only received on May 17, five days after the country’s cabinet had approved the move.

A PGC Executive Board meeting on Friday was attended by Lord Vaea, the acting president of Tonga's Olympic Committee, TASANOC, and Lord Sevele, chairman of the Tonga 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee.

Following the meeting, the PGC said in a statement: “The Executive Board remains confident that Tonga can successfully deliver the event should the Government resume its support. In the Pacific way, the Executive Board favours keeping the door open to the Tongan Government for a final short period to address its financial concerns with the PGC in a spirit of cooperation.

“The PGC has previously written to the Prime Minister with this offer but will now ask the Tonga Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC) to facilitate an appointment for PGC representatives to meet with him and the Cabinet in early June to begin a process of fully reviewing the Games’ cost structures.

“In the meantime, the Executive Board will advise its members that it has put contingency plans in place for the process of selecting an alternative host nation quickly in the event that matters with the Tongan Government are not fully resolved by June 30.”

PGC chief executive Andrew Minogue is adamant that Tonga can still host the event, stating that substantial groundwork has already been completed. “The Organising Committee has been up and running for several years and it's doing its work,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“The venues are coming together with the help of donor governments – particularly the Chinese and Australia and New Zealand with the main stadium, so we're confident the facilities will be in place. The government has the financial resources to make contributions where necessary, with the venues but also with the operational costs of the Games, and if that support resumes, as it has been there for the last four and a half years, then we remain confident that Tonga can deliver the event.”