Unity and celebration, Honiara Stadium Echoes with Cheers as Pacific Games officially begin
The 17th Pacific Games commenced with a spectacular opening ceremony in the capital city of Honiara, marking a historic moment as Solomon Islands hosted the Games for the first time in 60 years since its inception in Fiji in 1963.
The theme for this year’s event is “Challenge, Celebrate, Unite,” embodying the spirit of athletic competition and regional solidarity. A total of 24 countries participated in the grand opening ceremony, reflecting the growing significance and inclusivity of the Pacific Games.
In 1963, the inaugural Pacific Games had only 600 officials and athletes, but in 2023, the number has soared to 5000 participants, with the inclusion of sporting powerhouses Australia and New Zealand. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare expressed gratitude towards bilateral partners and supporters who played a crucial role in enabling Solomon Islands to host the Pacific Games.
China emerged as the largest contributor, joined by Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Fiji and the United States of America. The journey to hosting the Pacific Games began in 2016 in Vanuatu when Solomon Islands submitted its bid against Tahiti Nui, winning by a slim margin of just two votes. Over the years, despite facing criticisms for the extension of the 11th parliament from 2023 to 2024, a diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China in 2019 and many other criticisms regarding social and health issues, the government successfully hosted the Pacific Games with the historic opening ceremony taking place on Sunday 19 November 2023.
“Preparing for the games has been an experience of a lifetime,” remarked Prime Minister Sogavare, emphasizing the significance of this milestone for the nation. He said as Prime Minister of the host nation, he is honored to handover the games to the athletes who will participate in the true spirit of sportsmanship in 24 sports.
As the Pacific Games officially opened, the pride of Solomon Islands was evident as the country fielded the highest number of athletes in this year’s competition. The stadium reverberated with roars of applause, singing, and dancing as Team Solomon paraded into the arena.
For now, the people of Solomon Islands are fully engaged in supporting the Pacific Games, setting aside pressing national issues. The enthusiasm and joy displayed during the opening ceremony serve as a temporary respite, with a promise to return to addressing critical issues after the conclusion of the Games.