The Opening Ceremony of the XV Pacific Games held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea last Saturday evening was something truly special. For three hours, those both at Sir John Guise Stadium, and those glued to their television screens around the world were left in awe as the incredible culture of Papua New Guinea was showcased in spellbinding fashion.
It is a country said to be a united nation of a thousand tribes. And Saturday night was the perfect example of how unity can be brought about through diversity.
Credit for it all has to go to the amazing crew at Makoda Productions, who put together an incredible night that perfectly celebrated the unique PNG culture.
The night began in darkness, as 1,000 children made their way to the arena amongst a mass a Motuan women’singing ‘Gaba Gaba’. 12, illuminated Lakatoi then appeared, each representing an individual Motuan village. It was a haunting start to the evening, and an apt adaptation of the ancient Hiri trade which still takes place across many parts of this vast land.
Four towers were then revealed to represent the four regions of Papua New Guinea: Momase, New Guinea Islands, Southern and Highlands. Each tower was adorned with a young Motuan women, each of whom reciting a traditional chant for each of their respective regions.
The four regions of Papua New Guinea were then called to come for ceremony, beginning with the Ganige Kuakumba Flutes from the Highlands Region. From the top of the towers, a call was put out across this great nation for the people to unite.
A sing sing began, with the provinces of Papua New Guinea coming together in a spectacular showcase of the richness and diversity of PNG culture. A display of blias (costume), sound and movement blended the land of a thousand tribes together in what is possibly the largest sing sing this nation has ever seen.
As the nation is unified, the National Anthem rings out and the crowd as one stood on their feet. What an incredible moment, real spine-tingling stuff.
It was then time for the athletes to take centre stage, for the games are their opportunity to shine. Corridors of sing sing groups formed a striking guard of honour as athletes and officials for each of the 24 countries made their way across the main stage.
Each of the 24 countries provided us with something special, from traditional war dances to the not-so traditional ‘Nutbush’ which was performed by the Australian contingent, who are making their first appearance at a Pacific Games.
It would come as no surprise to reveal that the biggest roar of the night was when Team PNG made their way across the stage. The crowd stood as one at Sir John Guise Stadium, and a nation stood as one for those who were tuning in at home. It was a moment that will be etched into the memories of so many people, both here in PNG and around the world. This, perhaps, was the moment where PNG became united through the great leveler that is sport.
Following the athlete procession, Makso Dancers and a stringband led by the great George Telek were up next. Performing together, the group represented the four stringband styles of each of the regions here in Papua New Guinea.
The countries transition into the modern world wasn’t forgotten during the performance either, with electric guitars whaling out over Sir John Guise Stadium, a playful portrayal perhaps of the development seen across many parts of PNG.
Following the formalities of the evening, where Prince Andrew, the Duke of York described the ceremony as “spectacular’, he officially declared XV Pacific Games open.
It was then time for the final part of the evening, the lighting of the cauldron. Following its epic journey around Papua New Guinea, the baton entered the arena where it would conclude its journey. Geua Tau, Edward Laboram, Ryan Pini, Francis Kompuan and Steven Kari all had their opportunity to run with the baton in their hands, this group representing the most successful of all PNG athletes throughout history.
The final leg of the night was reserved for Dika Toua, Commonwealth Games Gold medalist at both the Melbourne and Glasgow games. As Toua scaled the final steps to reach the cauldron, it was lit to reveal a message which celebrates the unity of the Pacific nations and our precious ocean: Yumi Wanbel. Yumi Wan Solwara.
And with that, the Opening Ceremony for XV Pacific Games was over. Of course, there were fireworks to conclude the night. And smiling faces adorned those both at the stadium, around the country, and around the world.
The night was full of memorable momen’s, touching displays of the incredibly unique PNG culture, and a display of the unity that these games have brought to the people of this amazing country. And don’t forget the selfies, there were lots of selfies. But I guess that too signifies the development we are seeing across this diverse nation that we are so lucky to live in.
Go Team PNG!
(Article written by Nicholas Turner)