Eighty athletes from the Solomon Islands are set to train in China for 90 days to prepare for the Pacific Games ©Solomon Islands 2023

A group of 80 athletes set to compete for the Solomon Islands at their home Pacific Games later this year have left for China to undergo an intensive 90-day training programme.

China is providing significant backing for the Pacific Games with approximately SBD1.85 billion (£171 million/$218 million/€200 million) in funding, including for construction of the main stadium, and concerns over its rising influence in the region prompted the United States to re-open an Embassy in Honiara for the first time since 1993 earlier this year.

As part of China's support for the Solomon Islands staging the Pacific Games for the first time, it agreed to train 80 athletes across athletics, boxing, judo, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo and weightlifting.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare - who switched the country's diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, and has claimed it does not have the resources to stage the Pacific Games and a general election in the same year which led to it being postponed to 2024 - attended the farewell for the athletes at the new National Stadium.

Sogavare expressed his thanks to China and its Ambassador in the Solomon Islands Li Ming for its support of its Pacific Games preparations.

"Ambassador, I cannot thank your Government enough for this wonderful gift to the people of Solomon Islands," he said.

The Prime Minister urged athletes to use the opportunity to hone their skills.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare thanked China for its
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare thanked China for its "wonderful gift to the people of Solomon Islands" ©Solomon Islands 2023

"You are the cream of the seven federations that selected you to represent our country in this tremendous opportunity to further develop and sharpen your skills to be as competitive as you can be on your return," Sogavare said.

"Please remember that many others aspire to be part of this group, but you are chosen few.

"The trust of your federations are in you.

"The trust of your families are in you.

"The trust of your country is in you."

Athletes are expected to return to the Solomon Islands in October, accompanied by seven coaches, a team leader and an interpreter from China to continue their preparations in the build-up to the Games, scheduled for November 19 to December 2.