Jackie Molea-Chow envisions the Pacific Games as her path to early retirement. Perched on a ridge overlooking Honiara, the 32-year-old entrepreneur is in the initial stages of her poultry business venture.
Inspired by the imminent Pacific Games, Molea-Chow, amidst the clucking of 500 chickens, explains, “People consume eggs daily, and with an influx of visitors to the country, I saw an opportunity to establish my own poultry farm. This event is not just exhilarating; it offers Solomon Islanders a platform to showcase our products to a global audience, on an unprecedented scale.”
The Pacific Games, a regional mini-Olympics, are set to commence in 100 days. Anticipating 5,000 athletes from 24 Pacific nations competing across diverse sports, the event is expected to attract thousands of spectators to Honiara, marking the largest event ever hosted by the Solomon Islands.
In a reminiscent debate of Australia’s Commonwealth Games, concerns arise over the multi-million-dollar investment in the Games. Many Solomon Islanders question whether the event justifies the substantial spending. Opposition MP Peter Kenilorea Jr. emphasizes, “We are focusing on the wrong priority at this time.”
Jenly Wini, known as the Solomon Islands’ “iron lady,” embodies the nation’s sporting prowess. A two-time Olympian and the pioneer Commonwealth Games medalist, the 40-year-old weightlifter sees the Games as a crowning achievement. Wini shares, “I have often ventured abroad for competitions, yet this will be the first instance of me performing before fellow citizens from the Solomon Islands—a community that supports me, my family, and friends.”
Wini hones her skills at the recently inaugurated Solomon Islands National Institute of Sport, a facility tailor-made for the Games’ lead-up. This institute is among a series of investments by the Solomon Islands government, totaling about $70 million, in preparation for the event.
However, amidst the anticipation, concerns linger. The allure of gifts from China and the grandeur of the Games juxtapose with pressing healthcare issues. Reports emerge of a hospital in Honiara grappling with a shortage of basic medical supplies like paracetamol, casting shadows over the event’s true impact.
As the Solomon Islands readies itself for the Pacific Games, the juxtaposition of celebrations and challenges brings to light a complex narrative of aspiration, investment, and societal priorities.