South Pacific Games 1966 - New Caledonia

December 8th - 18th 1966

Noumea, New Caledonia underwent a sporting transformation by time the second South Pacific Games came around. The turnaround was two-fold. Backed by the French Government an estimated Aud$14 million was spent on developing world-class sporting stadiums, swimming pool, velodrome, indoor sporting hall and various training facilities. To back up this infrastructure investment the French Government left nothing to chance in ensuring a professionally trained and ready contingent for the games from their two Pacific territories of New Caledonian and French Polynesian. Their competitors gained mainland France experience and coaching. Experts were also brought in to get the rest of their teams in shape for the games. There was not going to be any repeat of the disastrous experiences of SPG 1963 in Suva.

No expense was spared at the opening ceremony. It was a glittering affair that showcased the huge outlay of the French authorities in building the main stadium of Olympic standards. Schoolchildren in a marching and athletics display led the colorful parade of national teams. An imported 57-piece brass band from France performed at the opening. The band was also given the task of playing the Marseillaisie, French national anthem when victors from New Caledonia and their sister colony of French Polynesia were presented with medals. Non-nationalist tunes were played for victors of other countries.

1200 competitors from 14 countries took part in the second SPG. There were 20 different sporting sections and only the small contingent of five from the Gilbert and Ellis Islands left without any medals. New Caledonia had the massive gold medal haul of 39 with Fiji a distant second with 19 in front of French Polynesia 13 and Papua New Guinea with 5. This quartet as since the first SPG been regarded the big four of regional sports. Fiji's women were the major contributors to their tally and their dominance in sports like swimming and athletics was to be no more.

Noumea South Pacific Games organizer Tony Bertrand had more than a few issues to deal with over the games. A rift between English and French speaking countries quickly developed over communication, food, accommodations and organizational issues. Even the provision of over 70 women translators in a fancy hostess costume failed to smooth over the rifts. Competition on Sunday was also an issue for some athletes from Fiji and especially from Tonga where playing on the Sabbath was against the law. Compromises were made to cater for this situation but the spread of the games did not allow for all requests to be made. The Noumea organizers in keeping with their brief of a professionally organized and conducted competition stuck to their guns. In the end a clear message to shape up as professionally organized outfits in order to be competitive was given to all other participating nations  

Marie-Jose Kersaudy New Caledonia's 12-year-old swimmer won seven gold medals, including five in individual events to be the star performer at the Noumea Games. Jose-Kersaudy went on to repeat this unmatched feat of seven gold medals at the next two games. Only six of the athletics records from Suva remained unbroken after the Noumea Games. Athletes like Lois Lax and Robbie-Morgan Morris won medals for Nauru. Both were former Australian national and international representatives who qualified on the two-year residency requirement. Other sports like golf, lawn tennis, swimming, rugby among others also attracted a number of expatriate or overseas-based athletes who qualified on residency or in some instances on their being born in one of the competing countries. New Caledonia and French Polynesia upstaged Fiji and PNG in men's athletics. The residency requirement was extended to three-years after a representation by the Fiji delegation to the South Pacific Games Council, despite opposition from countries like PNG that traditionally had a large expatriate representation in their contingent.

1966: Noumea, New Caledonia

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

New Caledonia

39

30

30

99

Fiji

19

23

17

59

French Polynesia

13

8

9

30

PNG

5

11

13

29

Wallis & Futuna

-

2

12

14

Western Samoa

4

4

-

8

Nauru

4

2

6

American Samoa

 

4

1

5

Tonga

1

1 

1

3

Solomon Islands

 

1

1

2

New Hebrides

 

 

2

2

Cook Islands

1

 

 

1

Total

86

86

86

258

 

 




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