History of the MicroGames
“Let the Games Begin”
The “Sixties” had been a decade of great change in Micronesia – so much so that members of the 2nd and 3rd Congress of Micronesia worried about the ability of their people, especially the youth, to cope. As an outgrowth of this concern, the Micronesian Games were conceived as a way to help the developing Micronesianisland nations build character and as a mechanism for unifying the islands. A statement in the program booklet for the 1969 Games says it all: “The desire to excel may only be fulfilled through the opportunity to excel.”
The first Micronesian Games, organized under the Chairmanship of Felix Rabauliman, assisted by Elias Okamura and Al Snyder, and held in Saipan from July 412, 1969, brought together athletes representing only those Micronesian islands which constituted the U.S. administrated Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, including the Marianas, but not Guam, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Yap, Truk (now Chuuk), Ponape (now Pohnpei), and Kusaie (now Kosrae) but then part of the Ponape District. That first-ever Micronesian Games consisted mostly of men’s tournament, including baseball, basketball, canoe racing, tennis, and table tennis. In addition, a special sport was created to represent the traditional, historical and cultural ties which bind all the islands of the western Pacific – “Micronesian AllAround Competition.” In this tournament, islanders matched skills in such events as coconut tree climbing, coconut husking, spear throwing, swimming and diving. Other sports (in which women were also allowed to compete) included volleyball, swimming and track and field.
Twenty-one years later, the Second Games were an outgrowth of Mobil Oil’s commitment to community development in Micronesia through its support of a regional baseball tournament. The first Mobil Games tournament was held in 1988 in Saipan, bringing together baseball team from Palau, two teams from Guam and a team from the Northern Marianas. Interest in the tournament was considerably peaked by comparisons which were made using stats from the 1969 Micronesian Games. The huge success of the Mobil Games prompted four key individuals to form an organizing committee the following year with the purpose of reviving the Micronesian Games. These four gentlemen, Ed Manibusan, Bill Sakovich, Frank Rosario, and Bob Coldeen, then approached the Governor of the Northern Marianas and received a green light to put together the plan. With key financial support from Mobil Oil, Duty Free Shoppers, Ltd., and Shimizu Corporation, the Second Games were realized for 1990.
“Let the Games Continue”
What was most remarkable about the 1990 Micronesian Games was the discovery that the unity and friendships forged in the First Games had survived intact. True to the spirit of the 1969 Games, athletes gathered once again in Saipan, and proved the value which sports competition has in fostering cultural exchange and the sharing of common values. In 1990, with the inclusion of Team Guam, more than 900 athletes, coaches and officials came together to build upon past records by competing in the same sports which had been held in 1969, with one minor change. Originally the canoe competition had History included both canoe sailing and canoe paddling. Lack of participation in 1969 for the sailing event led to its being dropped for the 1990 Games.
At the conclusion of the 1990 Games, a meeting was called of the heads of each delegation that had participated. In this gathering was fostered the development of a permanent Micronesian Games Council. By the end of the meeting, the delegation from Guam had generously and enthusiastically offered to host the third Games in 1994. Several meetings later, the Micronesian Games Charter was approved on January 24, 1992, and Mr. Bill Sakovich from CNMI was installed as the first President of the Micronesian Games Council.
By leaps and bounds, the Games have grown, as in 1994 when Guam hosted the event which was expanded to include the Republic of Nauru and over 1500 athletes participated. To the list of sports included in the 1969 and 1990 Games were added women’s basketball, softball (fast pitch for men and slow pitch for women), and men’s weightlifting. Women were also allowed to compete in canoe racing, tennis, and table tennis. The Micronesian AllAround was modified for the women’s competition by substituting coconut grating for coconut husking. Demonstration sports included beach volleyball, golf, bodybuilding, powerlifting, women’s weightlifting, taekwondo, and water polo.
The Games now bring together more athletes than ever before competing in thirteen different sports. At the meeting of the Micronesian Games Council held upon the conclusion of the 1994 Games, Palau presented a successful bid to host the next Games. Thus, for the 1998 Micronesian Games, the Republic of Palau proudly hosted the Games with over 1,968.00 athletes and coaches representing all 10 (ten) countries of the Micronesian Region. The Republic of Kiribati participated in the 1998 Micronesian Games with more than sixty athletes. Total of Thirteen sports were held in the 1998 Micronesian Games. Added to the list of sports in the 1998 Micronesian Games were the women’s weightlifting, and the wrestling tournament expanded to include both freestyle and Grecoroman events.
In addition, an exhibition game of soccer was participated with teams from Guam, Palau and Yap. The Games have truly been a key factor in unifying the islands of the central to western Pacific region. They have developed as a steppingstone for entry into the South Pacific Games, Oceania Sports, and the world Olympics.