We return to the city and track where the Oceania Athletics Championships began – the National Stadium in Suva. The inaugural championships were held from the 11th to the 14th July, 1990. This is the first time in 27 years that the championships have been held in Suva.
Since 1990 Oceania Athletics has changed considerably. We have seen the Oceania Athletics Championships evolve into the Oceania Area Athletics Championships, and along the way we have had additional competition with the Grand Prix Series, the Oceania Cup competition, and the on-going Regional Championships. On occasions there were separate meets for the U18 and U20 divisions, but now they have been incorporated in the main championship. Over the years selected events have been added for Athletes With a Disability (AWD)/ Parasports / Handisport).
The regional championships give the opportunity for the three different regions – Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia – to meet in traditional, but friendly, rivalry with their neighbouring countries. The next editions of the regional champs will be in 2018. The venues will be decided at the forthcoming Oceania Athletics Council Meeting, which will be held at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on 22nd June.
Following the Council Meeting OAA Congress will be held, and then the Oceania Athletics Regional Development Centre (RDC) Administration Seminar will take place on 23rd-25th June.
The President of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, will be in attendance for the Council Meeting and the Congress. We have been privileged to have Lord Coe’s presence at our Area Championships in both 2013 (Tahiti) and 2015 (Cairns) and also at our Congress on the Gold Coast in February 2015.
All of this is the prelude to the Area Championships, which will take place from the 28th June to the 1st July.
There are many entries for the championships, with the host, Fiji, having the largest number (179). Other teams in alphabetical order are – American Samoa (7 athletes), Australia (132), Cook Islands (7), Federated States of Micronesia (6), Guam (12), Kiribati (6), Marshall Islands (6), New Caledonia (18), Norfolk Island (2), Northern Marianas (7), Nauru (16), New Zealand (52), Palau (3), Papua New Guinea (37), Polynésie de Française (8), Regional Australia (17), Samoa (31), Solomon Islands (16), Tonga (17), Tuvalu (5), Vanuatu (12), Wallis & Futuna (11). A grand total of 607 athletes.
In the Senior Division, the winner of the title will have automatic qualification for participation in the IAAF World Championships, to be held in London from the 4th to the 13th August, this year. The qualification is subject to the athlete’s federation selecting them, and also fulfilling a number of requirements for some of the track events and all of the field events. The automatic qualification provision has raised the status of the Area Championships, and also attracted a large number of high quality athletes. We expect to see some fierce rivalry over the four days of competition.
Athletics Fiji has recently taken possession of pole vault equipment. This will enable the championship to offer the full range of pole vault events and the Decathlon, for the first time since the 2003 South Pacific Games. Thanks go to the IAAF for their assistance in obtaining the equipment.
The next report will preview the Women’s Track events.