THE man who pioneered the Arafura Games, Peter Ritchie, has died in Darwin of a heart attack, aged 62.
He brought the Arafura Games to Darwin in 1992 and also made a big impression on the Northern Territory’s indigenous communities in his 51 years in the north country.
He worked at Borroloola and Katherine in the mid-1970s and was in the Gulf of Carpentaria town when the first land claims were made in 1976.
Mr Ritchie was appointed the first general manager of the Arafura Sports Festival (later known as the Arafura Games) in 1991 and was instrumental in its early success.
He not only engaged and gained the participation of countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Papua New Guinea but also added places like Cambodia to the athletes roster after some careful negotiating.
Twenty years previously he had been selected to undertake patrol officer training at the Australian School of Pacific Administration at Middle Head in Sydney.
The course ran for 18 months where Territory trainees Peter Ritchie, Bill Ivory and Kirk Whelan undertook extensive training in law, government and psychology.
Mr Ritchie and his good mate Mr Ivory had never been to Sydney and on arrival ended up at the Rocks. They could see the Harbour Bridge but had no idea how to get to the other side of Sydney Harbour.
It was a similar story in Adelaide on the way to Sydney where they were arrested for vagrancy – for sleeping on the beach with nowhere to stay.
But Mr Ritchie had the ability to make friends easily.
He once met a male makeup artist from the ABC at a bar in Manly and a week later Ritchie, Whelan and Ivory were admitted to the exclusive 729 Club where they shared a drink with the likes of Jack Thompson, Jackie Weaver, Tony Bonner and several other TV personalities.
In sport the blue and gold colours of Northern Territory Football league club Wanderers dominated Mr Ritchie’s life.
He played in under-15 and under-18 premiership sides and was a senior player and later a key administrator. He was made a club life member in 1987.
Mr Ritchie married Marie Liddle in 1980 and is survived his children, Narelle and Darin.