Golden Opportunity For Sports Institute

A B M Shawkat Ali is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at the University of Fiji. He is also founding director, Centre for Smart
26 Aug 2016 08:07
Golden Opportunity For Sports Institute
Apolonia Vaivai in Rio. Photo: Bruce Southwick/ Zoom Fiji

A B M Shawkat Ali is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at the University of Fiji. He is also founding director, Centre for Smart Technologies, Dean for the School of Science and Technology.


Sport – an active physical involvement with skill presentation in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

The perceived and objective benefits for an individual or group in sports are numerous including physical, physiological, and social development.

Without any argument we accept sports people have better mental health than common people in any community. This realisation was knocked by our ancestors a long time ago in 776 BC when the first ancient Olympic Games was launched for the people. The Greek pillars are a witness of our modern Olympic history.

Since 776 BC to 2016 RIO we have seen many world records, tears and smiles. We have seen new flags as well in the Olympic Stadium across the world. Rio 2016 made me emotional by giving the opportunity to the refugees, I was emotional too when a Chinese athlete asked a young girl athlete- ‘Would you marry me?’


A nation celebrates a Gold medal

Finally it was unseen in my 46 years history how a nation celebrates a Gold medal from Olympic.

It was a history for Fiji, history for entire South Pacific due to the only Gold medal has arrived in the Pacific!

Fijians were waiting at their international airport in Nadi to welcome their Gold medallist from Rio 2016 last Sunday. Basically, they were waiting mentally to welcome our golden boys from the day when they thrashed our Great Britain brothers (I called brothers because we have similarity in our national flags). Hard to express our feelings, I was quiet seeing the victorious and mighty boys leave the airport for their welcoming ceremony at Prince Charles Park in Nadi.

Our eight-year-old daughter Sahdia was shouting- ‘O my God, Golden boys is close to our home!’

I saw Fijians from Nadi airport to Prince Charles Park standing beside the road and offering love by cheering their Golden boys. Just off the roundabout at Namaka, I found out Fiji Airways changed their Flight colour as Gold.


Prime Minsiter stayed close by our team

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was waiting in the main gate at Prince Charles Park to welcome our Golden boys. I have never seen a Prime Minster to act as he did that Sunday.

He kept away all his protocol just to stay closer with our boys.

Back to memory lane, when Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Modi came to visit Fiji in 2014. As an invited guest in academia field, I found very tight security at The Fiji National University. I told the Indian Prime Minister’s security officer- “Fiji is a good place. No one would harm your Prime Minister, don’t worry, and enjoy Fiji”.

Immediately a question came to my mind- why does the Indian Prime Minister maintain tight security, he is from a political background and he should be closer to the people without security. He should follow Fijian Prime Minister’s style.

However, when prime minister was leaving FNU then the same security officer came to me and said- ‘Thank you sir, indeed Fiji is a good place’. Anyway, I was enjoying Prime Minister Bainimarama acknowledging our Golden coach Ben Ryan known to the Fijians as “Peni Raiyani”.


The teacher

To me, Mr Ryan is a teacher for our golden boys. Any progressive nation should know how to respect a teacher. In his speech, the Gold medal is not only a medal; it is the responsibility the boys will carry forward to the nation and to all Fijians.


Unity and responsibility

Also, unity in the sense that in Mr Bainimarama’s speech that on the field there is more teamwork than of an individual work and that is why the Gold medal is hanging on their neck.  This is what I gathered from the Fiji Prime Minister’s speech on Sunday at Prince Charles Park.

The practice continued by our honourable President Major-General (ret’d) Jioji Konrote at the national gold medal celebration at the  ANZ Stadium in Suva on Monday August 22 which was a public holiday in Fiji just to celebrate the Fiji Seven’s Gold medallist winners.

The President was seated just on the right of Mr Ryan.

CNN reported:  Ben Ryan- Fiji’s secret weapon.

Prime Minister did the same practice in the national celebration day. He was standing at the ANZ Stadium gate to welcome our Golden team. I could not see the Prime Minister on Television in the reserved area, he was always found with common people. Our Golden boys were very respectful to Mr Ryan; they always place him first before them. The entire event we may review through electronic media was a wonderful, full of love, respect and encouragement and maybe in the historic books of Fiji. In both the celebration events, the inter-faith activities were remarkable which is not common in our modern world. Finally after finishing off from the ANZ stadium celebration watching it on FBC channel I decided to go for my shopping.


Free newspaper

I was picking some items and at the same time proudly meeting and greeting my Fijian friends at the shop. As a regular practice, after paying for the shopping, I headed down to the bread shop to buy the daily newspaper. When I offered the money for the paper, I was greeted by the smiley face of the gentleman behind the stack of papers just to tell me,                                                                                                                                              Sir, Fiji Sun is free for you all just to celebrate our Gold medal!”  It was a brand new offer for me. I never got a chance to pick a newspaper without opening my wallet.


Changing the philosophy of sports

Donna L Merkel from the United States who mentioned in her research article, that changing the future of youth to the better  would need a collaborative effort between parents, coaches, teachers, health professionals, community leaders, and politicians.

As a society, we need to change the philosophy of our sports style from a negative environment to a positive one in which most children can thrive, benefit from, and sustain their participation in sport.

Organised sports participation needs to be available to all citizens of any country, regardless of gender, neighborhood, or socioeconomic status. Any sports should emphasise fun, and maximise physical, psychological, and social development for its participants. A country should have policies and guidelines which establish the framework for sports should be implemented based on scientific knowledge. I totally agree with Donna. Sports have many benefits.

Sports and recreation should be a fundamental part of child’s life, despite troubling signs in the sports culture. Sport provides a medium for physical activity, developing friendships, and learning developmental skills across all domains. Fostering a positive sports experience is the accumulation of multiple factors, i.e. matching the child’s readiness with the demands of the sport, positive behaviour from coaches and parents, realistic goal setting, and appropriate methods in place for injury reduction and management.

As a parent I am worried for our kids. Unfortunately a group of kids are not on the right road, they placed their position against our society. Sports can help our kids to stay in the right road; it can give us the feeling that we are one nation rather than the Aussie or American! In sports we learn when my competitor falls down to the ground and I should feel that she is my sister or my brother, my helping hand should extend to bring them back to the track. At the end of game we hug each other- which is a great lesson for the ruling and opposition party of any country.

Finally, is it a wrong idea for a country to invest in sports?  My strong answer- not at all. When we invest a significant amount for sports then ultimately we do not have to invest a lot for our health system.

A sporty, healthy nation would not go very frequently to the hospital. Therefore, we should care for our sports sector with national priority.


South Pacific Sports Institute

In Fiji, we do not have a national sports institution where our children can learn professional sports. I feel it is the right time to think about our South Pacific Sports Institute.

As a big brother Fiji should consider our neighbouring country benefits as well by adding the name South Pacific Sports Institute.

I believe a brand new South Pacific Sports Institute cannot meet our demand immediately. Regarding that our existing universities in Fiji may take partial responsibility to place a sporting nation. University can start Sports Science Department from now; our medical school could start Sports Medicine.

In 2016, one Gold medal is enough for Fiji and Pacific. Our heart is full; we felt proud for our boys and team. However, by considering common people’s thoughts together in 2020 we may have more Gold from Tokyo!

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