ALL ATHLETES that represented Papua New Guinea at the 2015 Pacific Games, held in Port Moresby in July, will recieve a financial incentive, the government has announced.
PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill said the government would provide all non-medal winners with K2,500 to support future training, helping each participant to travel home and meet other expenses.
Gold medal winning PNG athletes were awarded an incentive of K20,000 each when competing at the games under a policy announced before the games began, with funding of K5.7 million reportedly set aside for this purpose.
Mr O’Neill urged the athletes to continue to train hard, promising that the government would continue to invest in sports within the nation.
“I can assure you that our High Performance Program will continue and we will put more money into making sure you get the best training possible,” he said.
“You must continue to use our facilities and do it every weekend so they are not wasted.”
As well as hosting the games, PNG was the biggest medal winner – with the team taking away 217 medals in total, 88 of them gold.
In second place was New Caledonia, with 59 gold medals out of 166 won, and Tahiti was third, with 39 gold medals out of 113 won in total.
PNG swimmer Ryan Pini won the title of best male athlete of the games, while New Caledonian swimmer Lara Grangeon was awarded best female athlete.
Mr O’Neill congratulated all attending athletes, saying he was encouraged by the fact that athletes from even the smallest island states had made an effort to attend, despite serious logistical challenges.
“We have witnessed outstanding competition and displays of sporting friendship,” he said.
“It was great to see the way athletes from different places and languages could break down barriers and congratulate each other and even cheer for their competitors.”
Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko also thanked competitors, as well as his ministerial counterparts from neighbouring Pacific nations for their support.
“This is the start of a new era in Pacific sporting competition,” he said.
“In discussion with my counterpart ministers I have assured them that Papua New Guinea will continue to extend access to our facilities for the betterment of Pacific sports.”
The next Pacific Games will be held in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa in 2019, though organisers say the event is only likely to have 26 sports on offer, rather than the 28 on offer in Port Moresby.
Mr Tkatchenko said he had fruitful discussions with Tongan Sports minister and games committee chairman Fe’ao Vakata.
“I have assured our friends from Tonga that Papua New Guinea will pass on our knowledge and experience to support their hosting of the Pacific Games in 2019,” he said.
“Hosting a Pacific Games is a massive undertaking and preparations must begin early.”
For Mr O’Neill, holding the games was a vindication of a tough decision made in the early days of his government, saying in a statement that little planning had been done when he took office in 2012.
“There were no usable facilities and no budget identified to build or refurbish existing facilities,” he said.
“We had to either proceed and spend millions of Kina on developments in a very short period of time, or to quit and walk away.”
“Seeing the success of the games, the infrastructure that we now have and the way the games were promoted around the world, I know that proceeding with the games was the right choice.”
“Hosting the Pacific Games was a tough decision and it was worth every toea,” he said.