Tonga pulls out of hosting 2019 Pacific Games

Tonga has reportedly pulled out of hosting the 2019 Pacific Games due to financial concerns surrounding the multi-sport event.

A spokesperson for the country’s cabinet told Kaniva News that Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva had arrived at the decision to avoid making a “costly mistake” after suggesting that the previous government had not carried out sufficient feasibility studies, according to the Reuters news agency.

The spokesperson added: “We cannot afford that large amount of money and we do not have the number of people and sport events to use these facilities from time to time to generate funds for the upkeep.”

Pohiva was reportedly influenced by a World Bank report into the country’s finances, which he said left him with “no other option but to cancel” the hosting rights, according to Radio New Zealand.

However, the head of the local organising committee, Lord Sevele, said that a more recent report of the Tongan economy painted a different picture, with the country only needing to come up with a relatively modest $13m (€11.8m) to stage the Games.

“On the recent reports from the IMF late in March of this year, they are painting a very rosy picture of the Tongan economy,” he said. “The one that the Prime Minister brought to our meeting last week was one dated 2013. It's out of date."

The Pacific Games Council's president, Vidhya Lakhan, refused to close the door on Tonga retaining the event.

"There are two projects that we had requested the government, through the organising committee, to put in place," Lakhan said. "One of them they did, there is some revenue coming into the games organising committee through foreign exchange. And the other one I can't talk about, because it is still in the pipeline. But with those two projects we would be able to raise a substantial amount of money that we need."