The Solomon Islands' preparations for the 2023 Pacific Games are beginning to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis, even though they have had no cases ©Wikipedia

Coronavirus is beginning to lead to fears that it could affect the building of infrastructure of the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, even though it is one of only 10 countries yet to have recorded a single case of COVID-19.

Several projects are due to be funded by the Chinese Government and were scheduled to get underway this year, including the construction of a new National Stadium in the capital Honiara.

But the COVID-19 pandemic means the project team from China - the country where the novel coronavirus originated - still have to arrive in the Solomon Islands to officially begin the work.

Preparatory work is continuing to be carried out remotely, but Pacific Games Council chief executive Andrew Minogue has warned that building needs to begin soon if the original timetable is to be maintained.

"By next year I think,” he told Radio New Zealand (RNZ) when asked when the latest work could begin.

"Mid-2021 gives them sort of 18 months to two years to have the venues ready is sort of a guiding timeline that we've had.

"But as we've seen in other parts of the Pacific, last year in Samoa with the new badminton and netball centre [and] a couple of years before that with the Mini Games in Vanuatu, the new Korman Stadium, the donor partners can get in there fairly quickly and build these facilities."

Minogue hopes a proposed charter flight from China could be the key to the project beginning properly.

"It's largely for repatriation of Solomon Island citizens that are over there but also I think to possibly bring in some design teams from China to be on the ground and start at the next level of intensive design work for the venues in Honiara,” he told RNZ.

"There is work going on now - it's being done remotely - but it is something that we're being briefed on by our hosts in the Solomons and it's a live issue.

"They need to be able to keep going with that programme to get things ready on time."

China are helping build facilities for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands following an agreement between the two countries signed last December ©Solomon Islands Government
China are helping build facilities for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands following an agreement between the two countries signed last December ©Solomon Islands Government

The Solomon Islands Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last year with the Fu Tsu construction company in Taiwan to build a new National Stadium for the Games.

Relations between the Solomon Islands and Taiwan have broken down since the MoU was signed, with the Pacific nation pledging its diplomatic allegiance to China last December instead.

China are now funding the National Stadium, which will have a capacity of 10,000, along with several other facilities for the Games.

These include a new Olympic-size swimming pool, five tennis courts, a new practice athletics track, a hockey field, a multi-purpose sports hall and a 1,200 square foot office that will be the headquarters of Solomon Islands 2023.

The Solomon Islands has never hosted the Pacific Games.

They were awarded the event in May 2016 after beating rivals Tahiti by a single vote.

Since the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has continued to support them hosting the Games, even though the country's economy has been badly hit by the collapse of the tourism industry. 

"It's always good when you hear that," Minogue told RNZ.

"We always have that message from him when we're in Honiara and we meet with him or the Prime Minister before him and it's good to see that message being conveyed regularly through events and other things that are happening in Honiara.

"At this stage, the Government is rock solid behind wanting to be a good host in 2023."