The capital of Port Moresby is set to undergo a significant transformation, while the country as a whole should be left with a lasting legacy when Papua New Guinea plays host to two recognised sporting events over the next two years. The 2015 Pacific Games took place in the capital in July, and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is scheduled for November 2016. If successfully organised and held, they should convey to the world that PNG is capable of hosting large-scale events and provide significant marketing exposure for the country’s sights and sounds to an international television audience. The tournaments also serve as a prelude and vote of confidence for 2018, when PNG will act as the host country for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Making A Game Of It 

The year 2015 will also mark PNG’s 40th anniversary of independence, and the Pacific Games are seen as a major achievement in terms of helping to raise its profile on the global stage. Australia and New Zealand have been added as participating nations for the competition, and the games will feature 28 sports at venues throughout the city, with over 3000 athletes from 23 nations.

The government has spent PGK1.2bn ($454.08m) on preparations for the games, with new and upgraded infrastructure to extend beyond the venues themselves into ancillary facilities, such as athlete accommodations, which after the event will be converted into student residences at the University of PNG and other tertiary institutions. The games are also providing the impetus for other major infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of Jacksons International Airport’s (JIA) main terminal, as well as a road flyover connecting the airport to the main Sir John Guise Stadium in Waigani, to be completed within a fixed deadline. The flyover, estimated to cost just over PGK160m ($60.5m), is expected to ease congestion and reduce traffic times, while the extension of the international terminal building, estimated at PGK100m ($37.84m), should dramatically reduce the average passenger processing time from between seven and 10 minutes to just three minutes, according to the National Airports Corporation.

The new venues and stadiums in Port Moresby should not be idle for long, while facilities in secondary cities such as Lae and Kokopo will also be put to use when football takes centre stage in 2016 and rugby possibly the year after. The awarding of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is considered a landmark for the country, as unlike the Pacific Games, which is a regional event and one that PNG has hosted before, the tournament is truly global, with 24 teams being represented. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has stated that PGK10m ($3.78m) worth of funding will go towards the event.

While nothing has been officially confirmed and talks are still ongoing, 2017 could see PNG joining co-hosts Australia and New Zealand in holding group pool matches for the Rugby League World Cup. PNG is ranked seventh in the world, and if negotiations are successful, it will engender huge goodwill among the people of PNG, as rugby is far and away the most popular and widely played sport in the country.

The Business Of Politics

In 2018 PNG’s coming of age in the international arena will see it transition from sports to diplomacy with the hosting of the APEC summit. The 21-member bloc accounts for close to half the world’s trade and commerce, and PNG’s being awarded host status is viewed by Prime Minister O’Neill as a validation of the country’s growing economic and bilateral prominence within the grouping.

Not only will the country’s hospitality capacity be tested, with the summit expected to attract in excess of 10,000 visitors, but its security operations will come under strong scrutiny considering the number of highlevel government officials and dignitaries attending. In preparation for the former, a 35,000-square-metre building connecting the current international and domestic terminal buildings will be constructed at JIA. Additionally, the government has set up a dedicated authority to oversee preparation to ensure that the event runs smoothly and services are well organised.