PNG games rated the best Pacific Games

It was the biggest Pacific Games yet and according to the Pacific Games Council president Vidya Lakhan the best games ever.

The facilities were classed as world class and there was a rush to finish them. There were security concerns which the Papua New Guinea Government quashed by having the police and military on the streets.

In Fiji, sporting bodies were getting their best together.

According to FASANOC president Joe Rodan, the Pacific Games was almost equivalent to the Olympic Games for some sports and for some island nations as well.

This was to be my first trip to Papua New Guinea, the "Land of the Unexpected" and believe me I was a bit anxious.

There was no one in Fiji who had said "have a good time", in fact whenever had I mentioned that I was going to be spending 19 days in Port Moresby, all I seemed to be getting was "stay safe."

But despite the warnings, the Pacific Games was a very memorable experience.

The following according to me were the highlights of the games.

The opening ceremony

The organisers of the Pacific Games had contracted the same company that had done the opening ceremony for the London Olympic Games and Port Moresby was abuzz. Streets were closed and people lined up for almost a kilometre to get to the ticket booths.

The teams or the different countries had lined up from 3pm and along with them the various tribes and cultural performers.

The tall stages were on either side and the centre stage where the performers and teams passed through. The night concluded with fireworks with more than 15,000 in attendance and a million more on television.

Fiji's first gold

Manueli Tulo stands at five feet six inches and weighs at 58kg but he is a giant when it comes to weightlifting.

Tulo had a personal vendetta this time around. After being told to leave the weightlifting academy by Paul Coffa, Tulo had some scores to be settled.

The little giant won three gold medals and then made amends with Coffa.

The power of PNG fans

Whenever the host nation PNG is playing, the sport is one that has mass appeal and beware the extra man ­— the fans. Fiji got its first taste of PNG fans' behaviour when the basketball men's took on the home side in Taurama.

The PNG fans only cheer their team for every action but booed the opposition as loudly as possible — sometimes disturbing their concentration.

Captain Marques Whippy after the game admitted, the crowd had unsettled the team leading to their loss.

The Fiji sevens teams

The Fiji sevens team were being awaited with much anticipation. To the PNG fans , the Fiji team were superstars, who they had watched on television only. To make things more interesting, the home side was pitted to play Fiji in the first game.


The energy from the home side getting aggressive when the game started. It was then captain Isake Katonibau, who told the PNG players, "to men up". Play the game and stop acting like kids. It was PNG who begged the team to come, "so play rugby like men and stop behaving like children".

Fiji went on to win gold in both men and women's.

For Fijiana it was even more special. Having lost to Australia in the first game, Fijiana met them in the final again but this time, it was Fiji that reigned.

The Karate team

Perhaps the most successful team in the Pacific Games raking in seven gold medals. The secret behind this team's success was dedication and discipline. Karate section manager Lavorne Qio said the athletes trained early in the morning and in the afternoon.

She said if it was not for the commitment of the athletes, the team would not have been able to achieve the seven gold medals.

Toea Wisil

She is the reigning Pacific Sprint Queen and the sporting star in PNG. Toea Wisil rarely makes public appearances and when she does, she gets mobbed by fans. Every two steps of the way, there is someone who wants a picture taken with her.

Wisil remained true to what was expected of her. She ran a brilliant 100m and 200m and even won the 400m event.

The PNG women 4x400m relay team which she was a part of also won gold medal.

Wisil had just one regret from the Pacific Games, that was not able to win the 4x100m relay.

My last glimpse of Wisil was at a Port Moresby club, where she came with her friends on the night of the closing ceremony. She rarely had a minute to herself. Every second patron coming to take pictures or have her sign autographs.

Banuve Tabakaucoro

Banz was simply outstanding. He came and he set the tracks on fire and much to the dismay of the PNG fans, Tabakaucoro remained the fastest man in the Pacific.

He ran a brilliant in the 100m. He ran smartly in the heats, not stepping on the paddle yet, fasts enough to outclass all those running with him.

During the 100m heats, PNG photographers gathered to compare shots of Tabakaucoro when one exclaimed, "he looks so calm".

In the 200m, he set a Pacific Games record just 0.03 seconds short of Olympic qualification. Those were the only two gold medals he won.

In the 4x400m relay, Tabakaucoro was the anchor and had it not been Nelson Stone running for PNG, Fiji would have had the gold medal. Tabakaucoro's biggest regret was not being able to win the 4x100m relay as well.

This was just poor choice of runners. Albert Miller Jr who started the relay was just not fast enough. PNG started well and ended well.

Tabakaucoro tried his best but Kupun Wisil of PNG was 30 metres ahead by the time he received the baton.

The women's 4x100 relay team

Sisilia Seavula, Makelesi Tumalevu, Elenoa Sailosi and Younis Bese caused the biggest upset on the tracks.

In an event where PNG was supposed to win, Fiji prevailed. PNG knew that Fiji had fast women and the home team made a tactical change. Toea Wisil was to be their second runner and the burden fell on Tumalevu.Seavula started the race very well. PNG and Fiji changed baton and Wisil tore up the tracks and crowd started cheering but it was to let Wisil know that the unknown Tumalevu was fast closing the gap.

Sailosi who was on the last bend did marvellous work to ensure that Bese received the baton first. Bese has had to settle at second best behind Wisil since 2013, but now with no Wisil around, the smiling assassin finished first.

The Fiji team outclassed the host nations in the baton interchange.

The venues

Taurama: this venue housed the Taurama Aquatic Centre and the BSP Arena. The swimming pools were marvellous, so was the court which hosted basketball and then volleyball, karate and tae kwon do. Sitting was temporary showing that venue had not been fully finished.

Caritas: the Caritas Complex was perhaps one venue that was finished. It hosted table-tennis, bodybuilding and boxing.

Steamship Racquet Club: one venue that was not new. This hosted the lawn tennis and squash.

Bisini: this was home to football, touch, lawn bowls and cricket. Before the Pacific Games, this was homes and empty space and supposedly the headquarters of the PNG Rugby Union. The spectator stands were temporary and to get from one end of the venue to another took more than half an hour. The size of the football fields was questionable as well.

Sir John Guise Stadium: this was divided into four parts. The ground where the track and rugby games were held, the Power Dome where weightlifting, powerlifting, basketball and netball took place, the beach volleyball sands and the hockey turf.

The ground where rugby was played was small and finished just after the tryline. Half of the try area was carpets which looked like grass. The ground was sand itself and there were a lot of bruises. The stands were beautiful even the temporary ones. This is where the opening and the closing ceremony was held. During the rugby sevens, it started raining, teams were housed under the main stand and after two hours of rain the teams had no dry area.

The Power Dome was a beautiful venue. Finished in time and containing world-class features.

Sir Hubert Murray Stadium: this was being worked on even when the Pacific Games was in its first week but after completion, this venue had the best pitch.

Medal Tally

It was not until the second week of the Pacific Games when the situation regarding the medal tally was finalised. All teams/countries were asked to give their data so the data committee could check the data they had.

Information flow was not the efficient and different venues rarely shared information with each other. The best organised was Taurama where the team headed by Constance and Cyrill kept all media informed of upcoming events and results were available five minutes after the event. No other venues operated with such efficiency.

Despite the minor setbacks, it was an amazing experience for all.

The athletes had the best time. The Games Village was a hive of activity and allowed athletes to make new friends. The people of Port Moresby turned out to be very good hosts. According to some, the games ensured Moresby was the safest it had been in years and there was hope that it would stay this way. Hopefully, Tonga is able to deliver a better experience. Tonga is taking help from PNG to help them organise an event which would be international in nature as well. They have four years to do that.