Editor's note: Chiqui Pablo of ESPN5 was one of three female journalists chosen by Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) International Development to cover the recent 2019 Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia as part of ABC's Women in News and Sport (WINS) program, which is funded by Australian Aid. For the duration of the Games Chiqui and her two colleagues were embedded with ABC Darwin for their coverage of the Games. This is her report for ESPN5.com.
The Arafura Games 2019 is a multi-sporting event held in Darwin, Australia, that features 1,500 athletes and coaches from 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond - including 120 from the Philippines. It has 17 sporting events like athletics, basketball, badminton, indoor volleyball, and muay thai among others. It also features games for the para-athletes that include swimming, athletics, tennis and table tennis.
The Arafura Games started in 1991 and was held every two years. It took a hiatus in 2011 and so you could just imagine how people got excited when Australia's Northern Territory's government decided to bring back the festival of games this year.
I have heard a lot of people call the Arafura Games, "The Friendly Games". I quickly found out why. A Malaysian basketball player checked in his luggage at the airport. His basketball shoes were in his luggage. He arrived in Darwin but his luggage didn't. How was he going to be able to play? Well, a Darwin player lent him a pair of basketball shoes to make sure that he would not be able to miss his game. That was a classic example of an athlete helping his opponent.
In swimming, some teams had very little supporters. The countries with big supporters ended up cheering for them so they would be encouraged throughout their swimming events. How about the 800-plus volunteers that helped in the day-to-day grind of the games? These people came from all walks of life to lend their time, effort, and energy to make sure the games run smoothly and that both athletes and visitors were well-taken care of. Since the volunteers do not receive any salary, the town came together and food stores have opted to give volunteers a 10% discount on their purchase. No questions asked. I bought two scoops of ice cream in a cone and received a 10% discount just because I had an Arafura Games ID (media).
A volunteer's work is no joke and Toby Beaton, the Executive Chef at the Darwin Convention Center, knows this very well. He thinks about the athletes and how they need the right nutrition to keep them healthy and strong so they could play their best in their games. He supplies the 1,500 athletes and over 800 volunteers with packed lunch and dinner. How? Let's just say that his preparation involves 7,400 cookies, 4,000 pieces of fruit, 40 baguettes, 60 loaves of rye and 120 loaves of sliced bread are used to make sandwiches. One of my colleagues in the WINS mentorship program, Beatrice Go of Rappler, was one of the people who received a free packed lunch from the organizers because she helps the Arafura through media.
The Arafura Games is also rich with unique stories of athletes. Matthias Nakat has cerebral palsy. He is a para athlete from Tanna, Vanuatu. He comes from an island where men still wear sheaths and women grass skirts. He had never been on a plane, never ran with shoes on and had never ran on a track oval until he went to the Arafura games. Although he did not win in the 100m (T38), to him and to most of us who watched him on that track oval, he had already won the moment he stepped on that plane and represented his country in his very first international competition.
With the return of the Arafura Games, more athletes now will have the opportunity to showcase their talent in sports and it will give a whole lot more people the chance to show the world that there is still good left in it.