BOMI 12th Ralik Ratak Shootout opening ceremony

It was a very wet evening for the opening ceremony of the Bank of Marshall Islands 12th Ralik Ratak Shootout Invitational Basketball Tournament 2012. Despite heavy rains, the tournament opened on a high note, with a line up of national and local government and business VIPs in attendance to kick off this year's Ralik Ratak Shootout. Friday's two scheduled opening games have been set for Monday.

The challenge of operating a tournament without the ECC gym, which has been closed for 17 months because of roof damage, quickly became evident as Marshall Islands Basketball Federation tournament organizers prepared to start the opening ceremony Friday evening, November 30. A hard rain in the morning had been followed by an afternoon of blazing sun that dried the CMI court for the evening opening ceremony and two games scheduled to follow. But as the opening ceremony was about to start at 5:30pm, the rains blew in again.

Despite the rain, all of the people scheduled to speak at the program showed up early or right on time at the CMI court. At about 5:45, with the rain falling heavily, the opening ceremony started with VIPs, players and MIBF officials huddled under a large tent. The event was nationally broadcast live on V7AB radio with V7AB announcer William Ring on hand for the event. 

MIBF Secretary General Deborah K. Shoniber emceed the program. After welcoming everyone, she invited Rev. Edward Edward of the Assembly of God Church to bless the ceremony. Following the prayer, Deborah offered a comment about this year's Ralik Ratak Shootout: "This is the 12th Ralik Ratak Shootout," she said, "but it is the first one ever to be held outdoors. This is because our ECC gym is still closed. We join with all local sports and exercise fans in requesting that our government take action to get the ECC fixed and back into operation so that it can continue to serve the thousands of people who used to use it for sports activities. And so that next year, when it is Ralik Ratak Shootout Tournament time, we will be back indoors for this basketball tournament."

The competing teams were recognized by Deborah: Lae men, Lae women, Arno men, Arno women, Wotje men, Jaluit men, Jaluit women, Likiep men, Likiep women, Rongelap men, Namu men, Mejit men, Mejit women, Maloelap men, Majuro men and Majuro women.

MALGov Executive Councilman Jisam Kaisha, speaking for Mayor Mudge Samuel, thanked the organizers and congratulated the teams for participating and indicated his hope for better playing weather. He emphasized MALGov's strong support of the basketball program and sports in general.

The tournament's major sponsor, Bank of Marshall Islands, was represented by President Patrick Chen and bank official Sultan Korean, who is also Team Mejit men's coach. Sultan spoke on behalf of the bank, praising the Federation for organizing the tournament and recognizing the other businesses and government people who help to put on the competition.

In a short interlude, Marshall Islands Development Bank Managing Director Amon Tibon, and Guam-based Pacific Islands Development Bank President Aren Palik were recognized for making donations to the Federation to assist with costs associated with the tournament. Aren delivered his contribution to MIBF Vice President Neiar Kabua.

About this time, the rainfall became a deluge and the wind kicked up the tent that was protecting all the opening ceremony participants. Several brave volunteers — including tournament volunteers from Majuro Coop School, Journal reporter Hilary Hosia, MIBF VP Neiar Kabua, and MIBF board member Alber Alik grabbed tent poles to keep the tent on the ground. All of the tent holders were soaked to the bone, but braved the rain to keep the tent grounded and the group underneath it dry.

Deborah recognized the College of the Marshall Islands for collaborating with MIBF. "I’d like to recognize the College of the Marshall Islands for its ongoing partnership with the Basketball Federation," she said. "We just completed a great basketball clinic for men and women coaches, and thanks to CMI it went very smoothly." She called up CMI President Carl Hacker to speak, and he seconded the need for getting the ECC fixed and also mentioned that a plan is now in progress for the US Navy's Pacific Partnership visit next year to build a roof over the CMI basketball court. He said CMI was happy to be a partner with MIBF and wished the tournament luck.

Jeimata Nokko Kabua represented the Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee, on which he is a Vice President. Nokko also spoke to the urgent need to get the ECC functioning. He also recognized MIBF for organizing the event, and explained that the NOC is financially supporting many of the logistic costs associated with the tournament.

Deborah recognized additional Ralik Ratak Shootout sponsors. The Marshalls Energy Company fixed one of the lights on this court that had been broken for a long time, so now the players won’t have to play in the dark. The National Telecommunications Authority made sure a phone line was working for V7AB to broadcast this ceremony and the games to follow. Do It Best Hardware, Majuro Stevedore and Terminal Company, and Medi-Source Pacific all helped with financial donations.

The final speaker of the evening was Internal Affairs Assistant Secretary Wallace Peter, who spoke on behalf of Minister Wilbur Heine. Wallace praised the partnership between his ministry and the Basketball Federation, and particularly praised major sponsor Bank of Marshall Islands for always getting behind this national tournament by guaranteeing funding.

Rev. Edward wrapped things up with a closing prayer. 

Then Deborah, looking out on the puddle-filled court with rain falling on her face, said what everyone would have liked to do: "Let's play ball!"

Friday's two games were postponed to Monday.

Photo: Pacific Islands Development Bank President Aren Palik (right) hands a donation to MIBF VP Neiar Kabua as MIBF Sec. Gen. Deborah Shoniber looks on.




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