RAROTONGA:  21ST SEPTEMBER TO 2ND OCTOBER, 2009
It was the biggest event in the Cook Islands for 24 years with teams from 22 countries all over the Pacific region descending on Rarotonga to take part!   And it was both a spectacle of sport, and a huge celebration of Cook Islands and South Pacific life

COMPETING NATIONS
Marshall Islands  Kiribati Niue Cook Islands  Guam  Micronesia American Samoa  Norfolk Island Palau Northern Mariana Islands Solomon Islands  Tokelau  Tonga Tuvalu  Wallis and Futuna  Fiji French Polynesia Nauru  New Caledonia
Papua New Guinea Samoa  Vanuatu (including New Hebrides)

THE SPORTING SPECTACLE



PURPOSE BUILT STADIUM
A huge, purpose built indoor sports stadium at Nikao on Rarotonga was the focal point of the games.  The Chinese government provided a low cost loan of almost NZ$14 million (approx. UKĀ£5m, US$7.4m, 5.8m Euros) to the Cook Islands government to pay for the building, which itself caused a lot of local controversy.   Many said the money would have been better spent elsewhere and some questioned the idea of taking money from China at all.
Fijian,Dr A.H. Sahu Khan came up with the idea in 1959 at a meeting of the South Pacific Commission
Fiji was the first host country in 1963
The objective of the Games is "creating bonds of kindred friendship and brotherhood amongst people of the countries of the Pacific region through sporting exchange without any distinctions as to race, religion or politics."
The Cook Islands last hosted the Games in 1985
The Games have been held in 12 countries and territories in the region
Many countries boycotted the 1995 Games in Papeete, Tahiti as a direct protest at French nuclear testing in the Pacific
New Caledonia has won the most medals (658 gold, 516 silver and 468 bronze)
Tuvalu has won the fewest medals (1 silver, 1 bronze)
The games were held every 3 years (not four) until 1975
Every games (including this year's) has had a controversy over whether events should take place on a Sunday



TEN THINGS YOU (PROBABLY) DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE GAMES
Gold medal
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The closing ceremony


Miss South Pacific of Nuie
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Team Cook Islands
A colourful welcome
A warm Cook Islands welcome
To thunderous cheers and the sounds of traditional Cook Islands music, nearly a thousand athletes and officials from 22 nations were led into the new Telecom Sports Stadium.  At their head was the contingent from Palau, who hosted the 2005 games.   Miss South Pacific, Vanessa Marsh from Nuie (above, far right) led her team into the stadium. Teams from the previous week's  Te Maeva Nui cultural festival  - from all of the inhabited islands in the Cooks - accompanied each country.
"Let us all join together and enjoy the games. Let's share our mana, our legacy, our tradition and our hearts."
Games CEO Mac Mokoroa



Team Cook Islands haka
Haka
The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed and teams quickly ignored plans for a continuous march round the stadium...instead, they peformed hakas in front of the main grandstand!
Pacific Games Council flag paraded
Father and son weightlifters, Sam Pera Jnr and Sam Pera Snr carried the new Pacific Games Council flag into the stadium accompanied by fellow Cook Islands team members. 

Boys Brigade members formed a guard of honour.   All 10 flag bearers also wore olive branch head eis which were taken from an olive tree planted on the island after the Athens olympics of 2004.




Gifts of drinking nuts (nu) were offered to the teams.  And the refreshment was welcomed as they sat in the warm afternoon sun.
Papua New Guinea team
Games torch parade
Pacific Games Council flag
Let the games begin
The games torch was lit from a fire started in traditonal fashion by Cook Islands living legend, "Coconut King" Piri Puruto (he used to do a daily show scaling palm trees in seconds!).   The huge official flag  (above centre) was entrusted to the Boys Brigade to hoist up.   Last year's Cook Islands junior sportsman and sportswoman, Daniel Tutai and Patricia Taea had the honour of lighting the games flame, signalling the official start of the 2009 Pacific Mini Games (above right).

Teams participated in 14 different sports:  athletics, boxing, golf, lawn bowls, netball, rugby 7s, rugby league, sailing, squash, table tennis, tennis, touch, triathlon, Va'a (canoeing), and weightlifting. 

The host country team featured athletes such as Gordon Heather (pictured right) who is the fastest man in the Cook Islands.  He can cover 100 metres in just over 11 seconds, as he proved at the Beijing Olympics.   And  Sam Pera Jnr (left) is the Islands' leading weightlifter with Olympic and Commonwealth Games experience behind him.

Weightlifter, Sam Pera Jr
Track athlete
Weightlifting
Fierce competition on the track
Boxing
A SAILAWAY SUCCESS
Sailing events were the only ones held outside Rarotonga.   A major row erupted earlier in the year when the games organisers wanted to remove coral heads from Muri lagoon on the capital island because the water wasn't deep enough for some competitions.  Instead, the stunningly beautiful, turquoise blue waters of neighbouring Aitutaki became the backdrop.  And they attracted unmitigated praise from Ralph Roberts of New Zealand who is a former Olympic sailor and was one of the international judges
"This is surely the absolute paradise of sailing venues anywhere in the world"
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