17th Pacific Games officially kicks off with spectacular well-choreographed Opening Ceremony
Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS - The 17th Pacific Games officially kicked off with a spectacular well-choreographed Opening Ceremony on Sunday evening, which highlighted the theme of the Games — “Challenge, Celebrate, Unite.”
The Solomon Islands people and government have certainly risen to the challenge of hosting a sporting event of this magnitude and the end result will surely be recorded in the pages of national history.
The atmosphere of the Opening Ceremony was that of celebration and as witnessed by spectators, athletes and officials alike, the Games’ organizing committee spared no expense to ensure that a unique show would be provided that would be remembered for generations to come.
And unite it did, not only the various ethnic groups which make up the Solomon Islands, but also the sports delegations from the 24 Pacific countries and territories that are participating, as they joined in the celebration.
About ten thousand spectators packed the brand new multi-million dollar stadium with a full size rugby and football field and running tracks that comply with international standards, built and gifted by China to the people and government of the Solomon Islands.
It is the main venue of the 2023 Pacific Games Stadium Project which includes an aquatic center, a six-court tennis center, a five-a-side hockey field and a multi-purpose hall.
It was a sight to behold, a sea of colors from the different national colors of the participating nations, the more than ten thousand spectators on the grandstands and field sporting their countries’ colors, the colorful costumes of the more than three thousand volunteers who ranged from adults to elementary school students, and people of different ethnicities who witnessed the show.
The official program started at the stroke of 7pm with another colorful performance by school students entitled Nature in Harmony showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Solomon Islands.
Then it was time for the athletes’ parade and unlike international sporting events in other parts of the world, it was done in the Pacific Way.
That is, when each country’s sports delegation was introduced in English and French, they were given the opportunity to perform a short item on stage.
The honor of marching first was given to the hosts of the last Pacific Games in 2019, Samoa then the other participating countries were introduced in alphabetical order and Team American Samoa was the second to greet the spectators.
Team American Samoa's flag bearer Micah Masei dressed in traditional attire getting ready for the Athletes Parade during the Opening Ceremony of the 17th Pacific Games in Solomon Islands on Sunday evening. Micah is the sole Olympian of the Territory's delegation to the Games in Honiara. (Read story inside for details about Micah.) [photo: Asi A. Fa'asau]
A roar of approval erupted from the packed grandstands on both sides of the field as the Territory’s national sports delegation made their way onto the field, with the sole Olympian Micah Masei leading the way with the American Samoa flag, followed by American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) President Tuia’ana Ed Imo, Mrs. Fou Imo and ASNOC Secretary General Vaiala Ethan Lake.
ASNOC President Tuia’ana Ed Imo led Team American Samoa during the Athletes parade that began the Opening Ceremony at the 17th Pacific Games, on Sunday, November 19, 2023, in the Solomon Islands. [photo: Asi Fa’asau]
When they were in front of the main grandstand where the VIP’s were including Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, they performed a short Samoan dance to the song “Le Teine Ea” to thunderous applause.
After the Athlete’s Parade, a spectacular performance of traditional dance and song entitled Unity in Diversity showcasing the different ethnic groups that make up this unique country.
Melanesians danced side by side with Polynesians from the seven Polynesian outliers of the Solomons and Micronesians from Kiribati who have relocated there.
From the Melanesian warriors wearing loincloths displaying their white-painted bodies, to the intimidating appearance of the Polynesian Renell and Bellona warriors with tattooed bodies from the shoulders, chests, torsos to below the waist!
The ladies too were tattooed in various parts of their bodies, others very much like the Samoan malu or tattoo for females.
There were also members of the Micronesian communities in the Solomon Islands and they contributed to highlighting the theme of unity in diversity.
It was such a spectacular diverse but unified cultural performance and the dancers movements were synchronized with the pulsating beat of the drums.
Everyone was mesmerized and moved by the intensity of cultural unification illustrated in the well-orchestrated performance.
“It was fantastic!” said one spectator. “Absolutely brilliant! I take my hat off to everyone involved in this performance. It certainly made me proud I was a Solomon Islander.”
President of the Solomon Islands National Olympic (NOCSI), Martin Rara, in his welcome address extended a warm welcome Committee to all participating countries and Solomon Islands as a whole.
He expressed gratitude to the Sol2023 Pacific Games Organizing Committee (GOC), the Solomon Islands Government, sponsors, and volunteers for their collaborative efforts in ensuring the success of the opening ceremony.
“Thank you all for your unwavering commitment, tireless work and dedication,” he acknowledged. “We have strived to create an unforgettable experience for all participants and spectators. This ceremony is a celebration of the spirit of unity and friendship.
“Remember that despite the different backgrounds and experiences, we are all united as the Pacific Islands,” Rara said.
Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan also addressed the crowd and urged all participants to be good ambassadors during the Games.
“Congratulations to all athletes from all participating countries for your selection to compete in the Pacific Games,” he said. “It is indeed an honor and privilege to do so. Our hosts have gone to great lengths so that you have the best venues for competition and are well looked after during your stay in the Solomon Islands.
“I therefore urge each one of you to be good ambassadors of your sport and your country.”
Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Honorable Manasseh Sogavare delivered the keynote address which focused on the significance of the event and acknowledging the support from key partners and sponsors.
He also reflected on the collective effort that went into organizing the Games and expressed optimism for the days ahead, celebrating the spirit of sportsmanship and friendship among Pacific Island nations.
“Tonight we take the first step in telling our story to the whole world,” he proclaimed. “The Pacific Games represents the true spirit of the Pacific. It showcases the very best in sport but it also plays a vital role in building economic, social, spiritual and cultural bridges.
“I would like to thank our partnership with key nations with significant contributions and sponsors that made this Games possible,” Prime Minister Sogavare said.
Another spectacular performance entitled “Fountain of Hope” followed the Prime Minister’s address.
The final part of the program was the final Baton relay which was carried by the country’s renowned athletes onto a stage at the northern side of the stadium, after being carried to all nine provinces over the past three months.
The ceremony culminated in the official declaration delivered by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare officially opening the 17th Pacific Games.
The crowd cheered loudly as the sky suddenly came alive with a spectacular fireworks display that went on for 15 minutes, ending the opening ceremony with a bang.
This Pacific Games report has been made possible by the kind sponsorship of Paramount Builders, Inc. and ASNOC.