The Solomon Islands will open the 17th Pacific Games in its capital, Honiara, today.
Overall, the country has spent $352 million on facilities and other infrastructural projects, including a major arterial road in the capital. Organizers state that 80% of the direct cost of $220 million is borne by various aid donors like China, which has spent an estimated $119 million on sports facilities like a new national stadium. Australia is providing $17 million in funding, mostly for security for the Games.
The Games have become a symbol of geopolitical rivalry in the Pacific, mainly between China and Australia. Pro-China Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who signed a controversial security deal with China in 2022, has deflected criticism by parroting the Beijing line that no political conditions are attached to the impoverished country projects.
Post-Games, in an attempt to maintain any influence with Honiara, Australia will likely ramp up aid, particularly for sports development. However, it is almost certain Honiara-Beijing relations will be the bigger winner of donor-funding the Games, particularly if Sogavare wins re-election next year. As a result, expect Chinese loan funding of Solomon Island infrastructure projects for businesses such as CCECC and Huawei, currently in the middle of a major rollout of telecommunications infrastructure, to increase.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.