The heavens had opened earlier in the day, with the tennis called off early and a football match between Vanuatu and Solomon Islands ending in a sodden state. But the weather was dry, warm and calm by the time everyone arrived at the Korman Stadium. Performers from all six of the country’s provinces took to the stage, with water drummers from the Leweton Cultural Group proving a particular hit with the crowd. 2013 Mini Games host Wallis and Futuna kicked off the athletes parade but predictably it was host Vanuatu’s 300 plus delegation, led by flag-bearer and beach-volleyball star Linline Matauatu, that received the biggest cheers.
MC: “Ladies and gentleman please welcome Vanuatu!!!”
Tahiti was a no-show at the ceremony.Last week it was announced the territory’s athletes would compete under a neutral banner, following the French Polynesia’s government’s decision to boycott the event. The Tahitian athletes were expected to participate in the athlete’s parade and to enter under the flag of the Pacific Games Council. But Van2017 CEO Clint Flood says they didn’t turn up.
“For our surprise as well they didn’t come out today. I’m not quite sure (why), we will find out tomorrow. I don’t think it was a political thing at all, I think perhaps they just didn’t feel represented but they’re certainly here, they’ll compete in both rugby and in boxing.”
Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai urged athletes to respect their opponents and inspire the next generation…before doing the official honours.
“And now I have the honour to declare the Jeux de Pacifique number 10 Pacific Mini Games are now officially open.”
The ceremony then concluded with a spectacular nine-minute fireworks display which lit up the Port Vila sky. Clint Flood says the explosive finish was worth every cent and rivaled some of the country’s volcanoes. But now, he says, it’s back to work.
“The opening ceremonies are always a lot of people say the pinnacle of the Games but for us, and we’ve got to keen going all the way through, it will be the closing. When the fireworks go off in the closing we can relax a little bit but our job is to make sure the competition now continues on schedule, make sure our operations are in place. So tonight was spectacular – I think it will give a lot of energy to the country and I think a lot of people who sort of said Vanuatu couldn’t do this now are sort of saying, “wow, this country can really put something on like this.”
The first medals will be awarded on Tuesday in weightlifting. The Mini Games continue until next Friday.
SOURCE: RADIO NZ