The military send off by the First Royal Pacific Islands Regiment signifies the opportunity for Team PNG to defend the country on the track, field, courts, in the shooting range and the swimming pool.
Team PNG “officially” moved into the Pacific Games Village last night on National Capital District Commission shuttles and not the usual flying out of the country on the national carrier Air Niugini.
Three-time Pacific Games gold medallist and powerlifter Linda Pulsan was named the country’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony on Saturday.
The 44-year-old was rewarded for being the leading female lifter in the region in the 72kg division and recently setting a world record in the squat as well as competing at international events.
Pulsan is dedicated member of the PNG Athletes’ Commission.
Team PNG is hoping the Manus woman can power her way to a fourth gold medal on home soil
O’Neill congratulated Team PNG and challenged them to be good ambassadors over the next two weeks.
“Whether you are here as an athlete, official or coach, you did not get here by chance,” O’Neill said.
“You are — over the next few weeks — going to wear our national colours because of your commitment to sporting excellence.
“You are not only carrying the support of our Papua New Guineans, you are carrying the hopes and dreams of every citizen of this country.
“I know that it is impossible for every Papua New Guinean to be a part of these Games, but through you we are honoured to be represented,” he said.
“All your country is asking for is to give your very best.”
The Prime Minister reviewed the incentive package earlier announced by the government for medal winners.
“For those of you who win medals, there is of course a special reward. Our Government has recently announced that every gold medal winner will receive K20,000.
“But that is not all. Every silver medal winner will receive K10,000 and every bronze winner will receive K5000.
“On behalf of a grateful government and on behalf of a proud nation, good luck to each and every one of you. Go for Gold!”
PNG Olympic Committee president Sir John Dawanincura had only one message for the country’s athletes.
“You are the best and you have to believe that you are the best,” Sir John said.
Team PNG chef de mission Richard Kassman assured O’Neill and the nation that PNG was ready for the Games.
“We are entering athletes in all 28 sports and in every event and we can assure you we will excel across those 28 sports. The incentive (by the state) will lift the athletes to greater heights.”
He then challenged Team PNG.
“Our army has given us the opportunity to defend our nation.
“Team PNG, our time cometh, soon the conch shell will trumpet and herald the finest athletes across the mighty Pacific Ocean and we are ready.
“Team PNG, we are ready!”