Covid threatens construction timeline for 2023 Pacific Games

The coronavirus is putting the squeeze on Solomon Islands efforts to begin building new venues for the 2023 Pacific Games.

A number of projects funded by the Chinese government were scheduled to get underway this year, including the construction of a new national stadium in Honiara, while the Indonesian government had indicated the multi-purpose hall could be completed by the end of next year.

But the on-going effects of Covid-19 were beginning to bite, with design teams from China still unable to get on the ground.

Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue said work was continuing remotely but construction would need to start soon if Solomon Islands intended to stick to their original timetable.

"By next year I think," he said. "Mid-2021 gives them sort of 18 months to two years to have the venues ready is sort of a guiding timeline that we've had.

"But as we've seen in other parts of the Pacific: last year in Samoa with the new badminton and netball centre [and] a couple of years before that with the Mini Games in Vanuatu, the new Korman Stadium, the donor partners can get in there fairly quickly and build these facilities."

A proposed charter flight from China could be the key to kick-starting the construction process.

"It's largely for repatriation of Solomon Island citizens that are over there but also I think to possibly bring in some design teams from China to be on the ground and start at the next level of intensive design work for the venues in Honiara," Andrew Minogue explained.

"There is work going on now - it's being done remotely - but it is something that we're being briefed on by our hosts in the Solomons and it's a live issue. They need to be able to keep going with that programme to get things ready on time."

Honiara hosted the inaugural Pacific Mini Games in 1981 but has never previously hosted the region's largest sporting competition.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare last month reiterated the government's commitment to hosting the Pacific Games, saying the country must not be complacent.

"It's always good when you hear that," Andrew Minogue said.

"We always have that message from him when we're in Honiara and we meet with him or the Prime Minister before him and it's good to see that message being conveyed regularly through events and other things that are happening in Honiara. At this stage the government is rock solid behind wanting to be a good host in 2023."

With less than three years until the Pacific Games were scheduled to start, Minogue said now was the time they needed to be able to see venues coming out of the ground, organising committee's staffed and more specific details around the running of the event.