Led by national sprinter and team flag bearer Patricia Taea, Team Cook Islands strutted to a thunderous welcome by the people of the island of Wallis and dignitaries at Kafika Stadium.
The team of 7 athletes, 8 managers and a press attach led the 1000 plus athletes and officials in Wallis for the mini games and proudly waved mini and large national flags as they paraded in front of the crowd.
As they passed the dignitaries stage – associate minister of sport John Henry stood up and proudly waved his national flag and cheered the team on.
Facts about the Cook Islands and its team of athletes thundered across the small grounds educating people of the beautiful south pacific island known as Te Umotu Kuke in the native Wallisian language.
At the centre of the Kafika Stadium, Team Cook Islands sat under the blazing afternoon Wallis sun for three hours watching and cheering on their fellow mini games athletes as well as listening to official speeches.
The Pacific spirit was a common theme in the speeches heard, and for the people of Wallis and Futuna – that spirit of Pacific kinship was felt long before the games they had spent four years preparing for.
In 2011 the two islands of Wallis and Futuna were devastated by cyclone Evan.
It was a dark time for the tiny nation as they came close to calling off the games; however, big brothers New Caledonia and France as well as other Pacific nations came to the aid of Wallis to assist financially in the island nation’s recovery and preparation for the teams.
As Wallis and Futuna is a French territory, they have received huge support financially, with technical assistance, logistics and volunteers from nearby New Caledonia.
Wallis mini games organizing committee, traditional leaders and government couldn’t thank their neighboring brothers and sisters for their faith in the island to make the 9th mini games a reality.
The games were also described as a Pacific family reunion – a time where Pacific brothers and sisters gathered to compete in sports and celebrate our united talents and strengths.
The final formalities of the opening ceremony was the hoisting of the enormous Pacific Games Council flag which proved to be a slight challenge as the flag pole for it was too short leaving the flag limp and dragging on the island.
But in true island ingenuity – the flag end were tied on to a nearby fence keeping it off the ground and giving it the illusion of flapping in the air.
The final protocol was the lighting of the mini games flame which was conducted with much fanfare and followed by traditional dancing and singing.
The lighting of the flames also declared the start of the two week sporting competition.
A large team of Wallisian performers showcased the story of how the islands of Wallis and Futuna were populated which included a side trip by the islands ancestors to Tonga which is why the host nation has a similar language and culture to Tonga.
During one of the performing team’s dances – Tongan athletes joined in showcasing the strong ties between the two Pacific islands.
However, from now on – it will be each Pacific nation for themselves as athletes go head to head for top honours and mini games medals.