Solomons says Pacific Games preparation still on track

Organisers of the 2023 Pacific Games have dismissed claims that the coronavirus outbreak in China will delay the construction of key infrastructure projects in Solomon Islands.

A number of big projects funded by the Chinese government were scheduled to get under way this year, including the construction of the new national stadium in Honiara.

The Deputy Chief of Mission for the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea, Yao Ming, told the Solomon Star the coronavirus epidemic in China had set back preparations.

He said an official delegation from China were supposed to have arrived in Solomon Islands this week to get the ball rolling on the Pacific Games infrastructure project but they had been unable to make it because of travel restrictions brought in to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Yao Ming said he did not know how long the coronavirus epidemic would last but as soon as it was over the Games preparation work would resume.

'We don't have any concerns'

However, the National Hosting Authority's executive director, Christian Nieng, rejected reports that Chinese-funded projects for the Games had been put on hold and said it remained business as usual.

"So far, we haven't received any communication from the Chinese government that things are delayed," he said.

"But we have been communicating with our counterparts to finalise the overall schedule and I think we are anticipating that they will be able to complete in early 2023."

"We don't have any concerns. In fact, most of the work will not start until later this year so, in the meantime, while waiting for decisions from the travel restrictions due to the coronavirus, the Chinese team have something to do."

While Chinese officials were unable to visit Honiara last week due to travel restrictions, Mr Nieng said there was still plenty of work done elsewhere.

"The construction will start later on this year [and] most of the work can be done outside of China without actually coming to meet with us," he said.

"They [Chinese officials] prefer to come and have discussions on the ground but they couldn't come because of the travel restrictions, but there is other work that can be done outside of the Solomon Islands to ensure that the facilities are delivered on time," Mr Nieng said.

One of those facilities includes a futsal stadium funded by Indonesia.

"Indonesia have given the contract to one of it's state-owned companies, and they're suppose to be here this month to do some charter discussions with them...once that is completed, they will set up a detail schedule of the work and they should be able to start that this year."