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PM’s Praise For Role Of Our 7s

The Honourable Minister and Assistant Minister for Sport, he Chair of the Fiji Sports Council, the sponsors of the 2015 Fiji Sports Awards, sportsmen and women, ladies and gentlemen; Bula
17 Apr 2016 10:35
PM’s Praise For Role Of Our 7s
From left: Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji Sports Commission chairman Peter Mazey, assistant minister for Sports Iliesa Delana, minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou and Olympian Shane Gould during the Sports awards night. Photo: PAULINI RATULAILAI.

The Honourable Minister and Assistant Minister for Sport, he Chair of the Fiji Sports Council,

the sponsors of the 2015 Fiji Sports Awards, sportsmen and women, ladies and gentlemen;

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

Nothing brings us together more as a nation than our mutual love of sport. So I’m delighted to be here again with you all tonight as we celebrate the annual Fiji Sports Awards.

 

Tribute to 7s team

I want to begin by paying tribute to our Rugby 7s team, who have lifted the spirits of the entire nation at a very challenging time with their magnificent win in Hong Kong. Vinaka vakalevu Ben Ryan. Vinaka vakalevu to every single player!

All over the country, people were able to set aside their worries for a few precious moments as we cheered on our boys. I don’t know whether you saw it but there was a wonderful photo on Facebook of people watching the game on a television set perched high on a hill over the Yasawas. It captured perfectly the Fijian passion for rugby and its importance in our national life.

God knows we needed something to distract us after the trauma of the last few weeks. And our 7s team delivered in spades with a nail biting, thrilling display of the skills that have made them the best 7s side in the world.

Now more than ever, every Fijian joins me in extending to them our warmest congratulations. And you go on to Singapore and beyond with the admiration, support and best wishes of the entire nation.

 

Focus on Winston recovery

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you all know, our focus over the past few weeks – eight weeks tomorrow, in fact – has been to provide assistance to the many thousands of Fijian whose lives were upended by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

I have made it my principal task to get out into the affected areas to meet as many of these people as possible face to face. To listen to their concerns, give them what encouragement and assistance I can and formulate a comprehensive government response that meets their needs.

We are working around the clock to implement our Help For Homes programme and our Adopt a School Programme – the two key initiatives that make up the first stage of a rebuilding process that will take many months and years.

But I make no apology for taking time out tonight to be here to celebrate the achievements of our sportsmen and women. Because not only do your accomplishments make the lives of every Fijian just a little bit brighter. You are symbols for the rest of the nation of the vital importance at this time of two things you all know well – teamwork and perseverance in the face of adversity.

 

Winston a setback

Ladies and Gentlemen, Winston has been a setback for Fiji, not a defeat. Team Fiji has regrouped quickly after that setback. We are united, we are focussed and we are determined. And we intend to move forward together to rebuild our nation – a Fiji bigger and better than before.

And we look to our sportsmen and women for inspiration in this, one of the darkest periods in our history. Because each of you reminds us that with unwavering determination and unrelenting effort, anything is possible. And for that the nation salutes you. And thanks you.

 

Our athletes lift our spirit

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the beauty of our national sports. That even in the midst of tragedy, our athletes can lift our spirits. The best of our men and women representing Fiji on the field bring us together as a country and demonstrate to our people what teamwork and hard work can accomplish. Their actions motivate us, their victories make us proud and their character on and off the field sets a standard that inspires us.

As we turn our focus to the Rio Olympic Games in August, many of you here tonight will have the same honour of competing for Fiji. It brings me great pleasure to announce that Fiji will be sending up to 84 athletes and officials to the 2016 Olympics – the largest and most talented contingent in our nation’s history.

Since I last was here last year, we’ve had some very impressive outings at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, our Rugby 7s team reclaimed the World Rugby 7s World Series Title, and our Under 17 Cricket and Football teams made their respective Junior World Cup qualifiers. So let’s give a warm round of applause to all our athletes and their accomplishments over the past year.

I’m especially proud because my Government has increased support across the board for our athletes and for sporting events in Fiji – and we are now seeing the great results. We’ve substantially upped the 2016 Sports Grants to cater for the Rio Olympics, Fiji’s Under 19 World Cup Crickets Team and our hosting of the Oceania Weight-lifting and Swimming Tournaments in Suva, both of which are qualifying events for Rio.

 

Fiji blessed with athletic talent

Here in Fiji, we are blessed with a lot of athletic talent. It is Government’s job to make sure that talent is recognised. That everyone who has the ability to represent Fiji on the world stage also has the opportunity to do so. That is why we have also launched an ambitious plan to construct new sports facilities and grounds in less developed parts of Fiji and upgrade our existing facilities.

In the 2016 Budget, we have provided for the construction of ten new rural playing fields. We’ve provided two million dollars for a new sporting complex in Kadavu and three million dollars for the upgrade of the Fiji Sports Council’s FMF Gymnasium. And here in Suva, we are currently undertaking a seven million dollar redevelopment of the Albert Park grounds, plus a magnificent new stadium that will again bring world class sports back into the centre of our capital.

 

New stadium for Valelevu

We can also look forward to a new 500,000 dollar stadium at the Valelevu Grounds in Nasinu and a three million dollar completion of Churchill Park and Botanical Gardens Swimming pool in Lautoka. We’ve also provided funding for Johnny Singh Park in Lami, Garvey Park in Tavua and Ganilau Park in Savusavu.

Ladies and gentlemen, the cost of these projects amounts to approximately 17 million dollars. A worthy investment that will keep Fijians moving and healthy, and continue to cultivate our athletic talent.

We’ve also laid the groundwork and provided funding for a number of international tournaments to be hosted in Fiji. In the wake of TC Winston, we’ve sent the message to our friends across the globe that the best way to help Fiji is by coming to visit. And these events present excellent opportunities for them to do just that, and help increase our tourism and keep growing our economy.

We have also increased our funding for the hosting of sporting events in Fiji. The budgetary allocation covers 16 events, such as the Fiji International Golf Tournament and the much anticipated Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders on July 1st, the first of its kind in Fiji.

 

Showcasing our natural beauty

These events showcase our natural beauty to the world and demonstrate our capacity to attract professional and casual athletes from all over the globe. That means more tourism, more money in our economy and more jobs for ordinary Fijians in our sports tourism industry. And, of course, more opportunities for the whole country to get back on its feet and put Winston behind.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the sporting industry in Fiji is strong and it is growing. I urge our business community and corporate sponsors to continue to support our sports teams and take full advantage of the vast potential our sporting sector has to offer.

I would like to, again, commend all of our athletes for their dedication and success over the past year. You’ve done a wonderful job of putting Fiji on the map and demonstrating the tenacity and character of the Fijian people. The Fijian spirit.

Whether you are on the field or off, the eyes of the nation will always be upon you. Fijian men, women and children look to you as role models. And that is a privilege you should always respect and a responsibility you should always uphold.

Because when you put in the hours of preparation and do your best in competition, every Fijians swells with pride and feels motivated to also do their best for Fiji.

Congratulations again to our athletes and especially tonight’s winners. We all celebrate what you have accomplished and look forward to everything you have yet to achieve. May God bless you all and may God bless our beloved Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

 

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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