Liam Morgan ©ITG

I was always told as a youngster never to judge a book by its cover.

Preconceptions formed without knowledge of a place, a person or an event allow our judgement and our mentality to become clouded.

Forming opinions on a whim is rarely beneficial as it allows our mind to only see one side of the story.

It can also be rather costly - just ask New Zealand weightlifter Douglas Sekone-Fraser, who was  forced to withdraw from the Pacific Games after posting the hashtag “cannibals” alongside a picture of locals ahead of the Opening Ceremony in reference to an ancient tribal ritual which reportedly still goes on today.

I’ll be the first to admit I had many of these preconceptions before departing Britain for the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby about the city which would be my final destination but mainly about what to expect from the Pacific Games.

For the most part, Port Moresby 2015 have delivered what they promised - a huge celebration of Pacific sport that should set the foundation for a legacy to be built upon in the region.

This has been one of the persistent mantras of Papua New Guinea's Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko, the driving force behind the Games, who has displayed a strong presence throughout the competition we have seen so far.

For this is not supposed to be just a flash in the pan, happy-go-lucky event which will fall by the wayside - this event is meant to be the birth of something special in Papua New Guinea, backed by heavy Governmental support and finances.

And they have made a promising start.

Organisers and supporters alike were not over-hyping things when they called the main venues here world-class, with the brand-new purpose built Taurama Aquatic Centre and the PNG Power Dome, which will revert back to its original name of the Sir John Guise Indoor Stadium after the completion of the Games, particular jewels in the Port Moresby crown.

Papua New Guinea's Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko has played a leading role in the preparations and delivery of the Pacific Games in Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea's Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko has played a leading role in the preparations and delivery of the Pacific Games in Port Moresby ©Justin Tkatchenko/Facebook

The Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation are the first to have jumped at the chance to stage a future event at the PNG Power Dome, announcing last week that their 2016 Championships will be held there, and there is little doubt many more will follow.

The Sir John Guise Stadium, the postcard venue of the Games, has also left a good impression, and it is just a decent press area away from being the perfect national arena.

Coming over from the Western world, where the quality of infrastructure is often taken for granted, the venues were a key area of debate; would they be ready?

Would they be suitable for the festival of sport on show at Port Moresby 2015?

Concerns were aplenty in the build-up to the Games but, credit where credit is due, Port Moresby 2015 have delivered on that front.

Yet it is the sporting action we have seen here so far that has truly gripped a country which has thrown its heart and soul into getting behind their heroes.

A personal highlight came in the weightlifting, where Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games champion and home favourite Steven Kari was on the verge of leaving empty-handed in the men’s 94 kilograms category after Samoan youngster Siaosi Leusio took gold in the snatch, leaving Kari needing a lift of 204kg to claim the clean and jerk title and with it the overall crown.

A hushed silence swept over the arena and, for a moment, the whole world seemed to stand still as he prepared for his attempt.

With the weight of the whole nation on his shoulders, Kari completed the lift with ease to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, sending the packed-out crowd into a state of euphoria, generating an electric atmosphere that is unlikely to be equalled throughout the remainder of the Games.

Swimming stars Ryan Pini, the Port Moresby 2015 poster-boy, and Lara Grangeon of New Caledonia both lived up to their billing with superb performances in the pool – Pini finished with seven golds and Grangeon 11 - while World Seven Series champions Fiji avoided what would have been a huge upset by winning the men’s rugby sevens title.

Home favourite Steven Kari produced one of the moments of the Games so far with a stunning victory in the men's 94kg weightlifting competition
Home favourite Steven Kari produced one of the moments of the Games so far with a stunning victory in the men's 94kg weightlifting competition ©Port Moresby 2015

Other notable sporting moments have been less positive, such as the Federated States of Micronesia conceding 114 goals in three football group matches – is there really any point? – before a huge breaking story surfaced this morning.

New Zealand had been thrown out of the Olympic football qualification tournament, hours before they were due to take on Fiji in the final for a coveted place at Rio 2016.

The decision made by the Oceania Football Confederation sent shockwaves throughout the Games and meant the final would now be between Fiji and late replacements Vanuatu.

And all of this has come as part of an event that the residents of the area have surely been counting down to, ticking off the passing days ever since they were awarded the Games in 2009.

The interest and buzz around Papua New Guinea’s capital in the Pacific Games is plain for all to see, with the Port Moresby 2015 logo prominent in every corner.

It is evident on posters, walls and even buses and cars.

It lights up the smile of the locals who walk up to you with a friendly grin and a pleasant greeting, no matter what time of day, come rain or shine.

All of this means it is easy to get wrapped up in the Games bubble but it has not been big enough to paper over some of the substantial chinks in the Port Moresby 2015 armour.

The Pacific Games began with a spectacular Opening Ceremony and the event has largely been successful since
The Pacific Games began with a spectacular Opening Ceremony and the event has largely been successful since ©Getty Images

For instance, there have been constant trouble with a lack of results, information and updates.

Sports have constantly been delayed and venues also switched at the last minute, with no explanation given by the local officials.

As well as being incredibly frustrating for those of us who are lucky enough to be here to cover it, the problems also undermine the credibility of the Pacific Games and leaves questions over the viability and suitability of Papua New Guinea as the host country.

Not only that, but these type of hurdles that as of yet have not been conquered must raise the anxiety among other countries hoping to host the event in future as Papua New Guinea is widely considered one of the more  developed Pacific islands.

Future editions of the Pacific Games must address these issues if the event is to truly establish itself by cementing a prominent spot on the international sporting calendar once and for all.

In truth, these are all fears we expected and so by that measure, my preconceptions have appeared, in part, accurate.

But that this in stark contrast to those I had of Port Moresby as a city.

In preparation for the trip, perhaps the most adventurous in the 10 year history of insidethegames, substantial reading up on the area itself was as essential as me having sun cream on whenever the temperature rises above 20 degrees Celsius mark.

But that research only served to send panic through my family when they found out that Port Moresby has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Shootings, drive-bys and muggings are regular and frequent, apparently, with gang crime a central theme in the city’s bleak reputation outside the shores of Papua New Guinea.

The Taurama Aquatic Centre, an outstanding venue at Port Moresby 2015
The Taurama Aquatic Centre, an outstanding venue at Port Moresby 2015 ©Justin Tkatchenko/Facebook

Google “Port Moresby” and the first suggestion which comes up is “Port Moresby dangerous”, and one British newspaper even described it as the “world’s worst city”.

From what I have seen first-hand, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As an obvious foreigner, walking the streets of Port Moresby only brings warmth from the locals and a welcome that puts us stereotypically-rude Europeans to shame.

Not once has the environment felt threatening or intimidating - quite the opposite, in fact.

Of course, I am not naïve enough to think that this is the case everywhere you go, but it just goes to reinforce that age-old idiom.

For I did judge this particular book by its cover, but I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying the read.