2023 Pacific Games confident of avoiding Covid-19 delays

Organisers of the 2023 Pacific Games remain confident the event will go ahead as planned despite travel restrictions as a result of Covid-19 threatening to delay the construction of major venues in Solomon Islands.

A number of big projects funded by the Chinese government were scheduled to get underway this year, including the construction of the new national stadium in Honiara, while the Indonesian government had indicated the multi-purpose hall could be completed by the end of next year.

Lead advisor to the National Hosting Authority, Clint Flood, said the majority of facilities were still in the design stage and they did not expect Covid-19 would impact the construction timeline at this stage.

"We had hosted a team from Indonesia [last month], from a company called WIKA (PT Wijaya Kara), which has been appointed by the Indonesian government to build the multi-purpose hall.

"We signed off on the conceptional design for that building. Unfortunately, they had to send their team on the ground home but for the most part it's all design right now. It's the same with the Chinese...building a huge bulk of our facilities: the pool, the tennis courts, the main stadium, a hockey pitch, another multi purpose hall for us," he said.

Flood, who himself was working remotely from his home in Canada, said even though Covid-19 had put a stop on international travel, work was continuing in China and the National Hosting Authority was in constant contact with its donor partners.

"Their design companies are back in the office.

"We get emails on a daily basis in terms of looking at various land things we've got to sort out for them, we're doing geotech, we're doing UXO studies - unexploded ordnance work you've got to do in the Solomons - so it's all progressing, there's nothing yet that's told us we've got a slowdown happening because of this."

Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue met with the National Hosting Authority in Honiara last month, just before the Covid-19 travel restrictions were imposed.

"A good meeting where we made some decisions about getting the Games Organising Committee up and running, directors appointed, a CEO appointed and so forth. Those things should happen over the next three months or so - that activity can continue locally in Solomon Islands, even amongst all the restrictions that are happening with Covid-19."

Minogue said the intention was that the games would go ahead in the second two weeks of July.

"The Chinese government have reiterated their support to assisting Solomon Islands with the delivery of the key venues, so at this stage we're planning on those Games going ahead when they were scheduled to go ahead in July 2023."

Clint Flood said, while the feeling in Solomon Islands remained positive, officials were preparing themselves for all possibilities and should have a better idea of the overall picture in a couple of months time.

"Obviously [the Chinese] need to get on the ground and put a team in place there and that may delay the start of it but they already had a couple of months of contingency up their sleeves. We're also looking at other contingency measures that we may have to take: could we move the Games back a couple of months if we had to do that?

"Those are things that our board has asked us to look at but so far nothing official and nothing I see in the weeds right now that would indicate we've got a serious problem on our hands with the schedule," Flood said.

All of the Pacific Games facilities were scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022 but Flood said, with the competition not taking place until July 2023, there was some room to move.

"The Indonesians actually confirmed that multi-purpose hall was going to be built and finished by the end of 2021. That was certainly about 10 months earlier than we had thought, so even if they slipped four or five months on their schedule we're ok. The Chinese projects are sort of going to be staged - they're not going to build them all at once. They're going to build some of the facilities we want to use for training first then they'll do some of the other ones later."

Provided all venues were ready to handover by the end of March 2023, Clint Flood said Solomon Islands' first ever Pacific Games would be good to go.