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EDITORIAL: Putting The Fizz Back Into Fijian Athletics

It’s Coke Games time. Over two days, starting tomorrow, the ANZ Stadium in Suva will throb with chanting, school songs, cheerleaders in a kaleidoscope of colours, coupled with food, fizzy
23 Apr 2015 07:58
EDITORIAL: Putting The Fizz Back Into Fijian Athletics

It’s Coke Games time. Over two days, starting tomorrow, the ANZ Stadium in Suva will throb with chanting, school songs, cheerleaders in a kaleidoscope of colours, coupled with food, fizzy drinks and music.  Often, old-scholars and parents are more excited about the hype than the students themselves. It has all the feel-good factors involved, much like when the Vodafone National 7s team wins an international tournament like they did in Hong Kong a few weeks ago.

But is it really worth it? There are huge costs involved for maritime schools coming in to participate in these championships. This writer is well aware of this issue having to billet a small contingent of athletes at his Suva home, from today.

Does sponsorship of the event help cover some of the costs of transport, food and accommodation for these island athletes?

Local celebrity and President of Rotary Suva Ajay Bhai Amrit, British High Commissioner Roderick Drummond, Coca-Cola, Pacific Energy, Fiji Water, Mark One and other donors should be commended for donating 700 pairs of joggers for needy students at the Coke Games. It’s a great show of support for these athletes who sacrifice time and resources for their trip to Suva.

But what happens to the group of elite athletes after all the hype has died down? There have been hundreds of athletes who have passed through the Fiji Finals then Coke Games. Should this be a concern for all stakeholders, considering the amount of time and resources that go towards organising this huge event?

If there is so much investment, why is there so little return?

If the point of organising 7s tournaments is to provide a platform for Fijians to play on an international stage, whether it be for the national 15s team or on contract abroad why should it be any different for our local athletes?

Of the hundreds who have gone through the high school system, how many have actually made it to the Olympic Games? Forget the Pacific Games, the charade that feeds the self-delusion that Pacific athletes can make it on the world stage.

Fijians athletes, especially gold medallists from the Coke Games, need a clearer path to the Olympic Games.

That’s where you separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls.

The reality is, over the past decade, only a dribble of the flood of athletes that have come into the Coke Games have made it to the top. Some have been lost to rugby and other sports.

Jamaica has a robust high school system that feeds into the Olympic stream. Maybe, we just haven’t set the bar high enough. Professional athletes can actually make some serious money on the international circuit. Maybe we should be learning more from the Jamaicans.

Off-hand, we can think of one local athlete, Carl Probert, from swimming who has been a multiple Olympian.

The only Fijian gold medallist on the Olympic stage, has been Iliesa Delana, at the Paralympics.

There’s some serious questions to be asked this weekend at the Coke Games.

Why aren’t we achieving the same level of success in athletics, like Mr. Delana, at the Olympic Games?

Feedback:  josuat@fijisun.com.fj

 




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