State pushes for more large scale sporting events

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii is set to host the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships next week. Officials said they are eager to bring more major sporting events like this to the islands.

From marathons to water polo and golf, Hawaii Senator Glenn Wakai said major sporting events are vital to our economy and well-being.

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“We’re always looking at the economic opportunities and who’s coming, who’s spending,” Wakai said. “But I also think it’s important for the people of Hawaii to have something to rally behind.”

Because of this, Wakai said they are pushing to bring more events to the islands and said he would like to diversify.

“We really should capitalize on Hawaii’s strengths, and one of those strengths is water sports,” Wakai said.

The Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships begin Wednesday, August 24 at the K. Mark Takai Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center on Oahu.

Nate Serota, spokesman for the Department of Parks & Recreation, said the regular Friday, Aug. 19-28 public swim schedule will be suspended for the tournament.

“There are approximately 227 teenagers aged 13 to 18 competing from countries around the Pan-Pacific region. To the best of my knowledge, about 1000 support staff and families are also coming down,” Serota said.

The four-day event will host athletes from 10 countries and is considered the springboard for the Olympics.

“It’s truly an honor to have this caliber of international competition here on Oahu and here in a city park,” said Serota.

The event is free to the public and will also be televised and webcast.

“I think presence is key to presenting Hawaii to the entire planet,” Wakai said.

One of the largest and most successful sporting events was the Honolulu Marathon, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“They generate about $109 million in economic spending this week when visitors, mostly from Japan, as well as locals pour really big money into our economy,” Wakai explained. “So I look at the Honolulu Marathon and see it as an example of how we should run sporting events.”

Kalani Ka’ana’ana, chief brand officer for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said the Hawaii Tourism Authority has supported world championship events such as the Molokai Hoe and Na Wahine O Ke Kai for years

“Canoe paddling is another important pillar of the Hawaii brand because it’s Hawaiian, it’s authentic. So surfing and canoe paddling are two pillars of that,” Ka’ana’ana said. “We’re thinking of things like Duke’s Ocean Fest, which will be held again later this month in honor of Duke Kahanamoku and surfing. We consider surfing to be that iconic part of the Hawaii brand and the Hawaiian Islands.”

The Molokai Hoe and Na Wahine O Ke Kai have been canceled since 2020 due to the pandemic. Ka’ana’ana said he hopes they will resume soon.

He said many factors come into play when discussing events to recruit and promote them. Facilities are one of them.

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According to Wakai, the state’s ability to host more mega sporting events depends on the future of Aloha Stadium. He said they are already in talks with the United Soccer League and Major League Rugby as tenants at the future stadium.

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