The Micronesian Games were postponed last week, the second time in two years for the regional sports competition to be delayed.
As the July 22 opening of the Micronesian Games began to loom large — the daily countdown sign in Delap had ticked down into the 120s — it became increasingly clear in recent weeks that two essential sports facilities under construction would likely not be completed in time. The facilities and other aspects of hosting requirements, including the country’s sports teams, were severely constrained by Covid and the Marshall Islands border being closed until August 2022. Some sports teams had not even begun full practices barely four months out from the now-postponed date.
Pacific International Inc., which is building a world class track and field facility combined with a baseball field as well as a major renovation of the ECC national gymnasium, could not get enough skilled workers brought into Majuro with the border closed for two-and-a-half-years — and even when it opened in August, it took time to ramp up the numbers of skilled workers in a country where thousands of islanders have migrated to the US looking for better fortunes.
Equally, PII — and all private sector importers— have struggled with supply chain constraints in the wake of Covid and the war in Ukraine. Construction supplies and materials taking six-to-nine months more than the usual three-to-four month lead-time is now a way of life for importers here.
The frosting on this cake of logistics woe was applied February 1 when the US Federal Aviation Administration grounded Asia Pacific Airlines, the sole cargo carrier for the Marshall Islands and other US-affiliated islands in the region. The grounding as of this week has been in effect for eight weeks and counting, with no indication how long it might continue. Meantime, cargo imports ground to a halt and essential equipment for the ECC national gym and the sports field were no longer simply delayed: APA’s grounding means essentially only some mail can be delivered to the islands on United Airlines three regular weekly Island Hopper flights. But larger cargo is simply stuck.
Tony Muller, a parliament member for Majuro and chair of the Micronesian Games Organizing Committee, told the Journal last Friday that the Micronesian Games Council met virtually with Majuro-based organizers on March 14. “They wanted our assurance before they commit funding for airline tickets that we are ready,” he said. “We couldn’t give them that assurance.”
The airfare cost for 1,200 or more athletes and coaches is expected to be close to $2 million. In addition, National Olympic Committees and sports federations in each island and country shoulder many other costs of preparation for regional competition.
The RMI Cabinet was briefed about the Micro Games situation last Thursday by Muller and other Micronesian Games organizers. Following the briefing, Cabinet endorsed the recommendation to delay the Micronesian Games, Muller said. “We need to take our time and do it right,” said Muller, adding the target date is now April next year.
Pacific Daily News, quoting Guam-based Joey Miranda, III, who is Secretary General for the Micronesia Games Council, said the games were “postponed indefinitely.”
Also last week Thursday, the Cabinet endorsed a declaration of a State of Emergency over the Asia Pacific Airlines grounding. The decision to delay the Micronesian Games and the declaration of a State of Emergency, signed by President David Kabua March 16, were not issued publicly by the government on its Facebook pages, websites or government radio through mid-week, leaving surprised athletes and local businesses to learn of these momentous decisions by word of mouth and social media comments Friday and through the weekend.
On the Micronesian Games postponement, Muller said of preparations: “We gave it a serious shot. But it would be irresponsible to do it in these circumstances.” He added the reasons behind the postponement were mostly concern for facilities being ready in time. “Covid, Ukraine, APA,” he said. “One after another.” No one is to blame for the delay, he said, adding it was caused by these external forces.