12,000 athletes set for PNG Games
The Papua New Guinea Games – a sporting festival that embraces the country’s 22 provinces and involves 28 sports – is finally due to get under way in November after two false starts. The biennial event was set down for November last year but stepped aside for the prestigious FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Then the new date, in March this year, was abandoned after weather forecasts of extended periods of rain.
As Paradise went to press, the seventh PNG Games were all set to go ahead in Kimbe in West New Britain Province, from November 18 to December 1.
More than PGK35 million has been spent on bringing infrastructure and sporting facilities up to date with five new mini arenas, including an all-weather track that will host the track and field events.
Its legacy will be transforming Kimbe into the sporting hub for the PNG islands.
The games, originally known as the Grassroots Games, provide a platform for PNG’s raw talent to shine. It was at the first games, in 2003, where a barefoot young girl called Toea Wisil emerged as a rising star. Wisil has gone on to
represent PNG at Olympic level in the 100, 200 and 400-metre races as well as carrying the national flag in the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics.
A lot of eyes will be on weightlifter Morea Baru who finished sixth in the 62-kilogram division at the Rio Games. His performance at Kimbe will be a gauge of his prospect for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Queensland, next year.
Another highly promising athlete is 20-year-old boxer Thadius Katua who faced up against a tough Russian in Rio, and although he didn’t win there were many in the audience who felt he deserved to.
He already has a Commonwealth Games youth gold medal to his credit and his Australian coach, Allan Nicolson, is predicting big things for his young charge.
Among the team sports on show will be Australian Rules, rugby league and rugby union, basketball and netball.The AFL code is on the way up in PNG, underlined when the Mosquitoes’ national team won the 18-team international series in a nail-biter against Ireland at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, in 2014.
With an estimated 12,000 athletes and officials arriving in Kimbe, the school calendar has been arranged to allow the visitors to use the schools as accommodation.
A lot of eyes will be on weightlifter Morea Baru who finished sixth at the Rio Games. Another highly promising athlete is 20-year-old boxer Thadius Katua.
Play ball … Australian Rules player Jeffrey Hardy Vogae (left) and rugby’s Michael Bauba Vitolo will be among the thousands of Papua New Guinean athletes competing at the PNG Games.