South Pacific Games Street Party In Fiji

By Naziah Ali

SUVA, July 13 (AFP) - Fiji was Sunday slowlyrecovering from a national street party after theemotional Saturday night closing ceremony of this year’sSouth Pacific Games (SPG) here.
In a nation better known for political instability anddivision, students sang the traditional song of love andfarewell, Isa Lei, at the conclusion of the trouble-freetwo-week games.
New Caledonia was declared the winner on the medalstable of 22 nations and territories but Fiji PrimeMinister Laisenia Qarase stressed the games’ feelingof togetherness and unity''. This SPG has ended. We have crossed the finalfinishing line,’’ Qarase said at the closing ceremony.
Fourteen days ago at the opening of the games eachof the 22 teams marched behind their national flagsproud of their countries and ready to do battle. Today we no longer see 22 different teams. You havecome together as a kaleidoscope of colours and vibranthumanity with a totally different message.
``You, the athletes the officials and the helpers, aretelling us and telling the world that we are one, we arethe people of the islands, the Pacific at its best.’’
Thousands braved what was often wet and windyconditions for the competitions contested by around6,000 athletes in 32 disciplines.
Both the opening and closing ceremonies offereddiversity of Pacific dance and music, although Saturdaynight’s provided the addition of modern music, includingTahiti’s Fenua dance troupe and Fiji’s very own BlackRose music group.
The closing ceremony spilt out in a street party herejoined by athletes and officials.
For the locals, who have endured high security, roadclosures and a crowded city, games fever may take awhile to die down.
The games were centred on the National Stadium atLaucala Bay, which was a wartime New Zealand air forcebase, turned into the University of the South Pacific.As a result of the games, it now has a sophisticatedsports centre, much of it constructed by China.
The big Pacific names like Papua New Guinea’sbutterfly swimmer Ryan Pini, New Caledonia’s backstrokerDiane Bui-Duyet and Fiji’s sprint star MakelesiBulikiobo performed to expectation, and the host won therugby sevens and soccer golds to much localsatisfaction.
The games, like any other major event, had their ownshare of hiccups, from troublsome spectators tovolunteers complaining about food to journalists, bothlocal and regional, complaining about the lack offacilities.
Annoyed motorists were forced to endure detours aroundthe sports centre and police were kept on their toesmaintaining security at the games venues and villages.
But for a country brought to its knees by a coup and amutiny in 2000, the games have been a triumph ofmanagement, talent and safety.
New Caledonia topped the medal tally with 92 gold, 75silver and 76 bronze medals and Fiji took second spotwith 65 gold, 70 silver and 62 bronze. Tahiti settledfor the third spot with 55 gold, 29 silver and 43 bronzemedals.