Opinion

PM: We are well on our way to realising Fiji’s potential

 The following is Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s opening address at the 2016 Fiji International Golf Tournament dinner at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa in Natadola on Tuesday.
06 Oct 2016 11:00
PM: We are well on our way to realising Fiji’s potential
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, PGA Australia CEO Brian Thorburn, Jarred Hayne and Vincent Nair at the Fijian Internatioanal dinner at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa last night. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA


The following is Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s opening address at the 2016 Fiji International Golf Tournament dinner at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa in Natadola on Tuesday.

 

The honourable Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism and Lands and Mineral Resources, honourable Ministers, your excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps, the chief executive officer of PGA Australia, managing director of Sports Entertainment Limited, our distinguished competitors, sponsors, ladies and gentlemen.

 

It is my sincere pleasure to be here with you all tonight to officially launch the 2016 Fiji International.

In 2013, when Fiji first had the privilege of hosting this tournament, I was not a golfer, nor had I had much experience with the game at all, aside from following the impressive career of our own Vijay Singh.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, three years later – I still don’t golf. But as someone who has always been an avid sports fan, I have marvelled at the athletic prowess of the very talented professionals that have come to Fiji and wowed us year after year.

I have also watched, with great pride, how this tournament has continued to rise in prestige and attract wider international appeal. And this year, we have taken the Fiji International to a new level through our partnership with the European Tour. It marks a special moment for sport in Fiji. This tournament will broadcast to 450 million homes located on every continent. It will reach many people, in different countries, who may not even have heard of Fiji. Well, at least that may have been the case before our gold medal victory in Rugby Sevens.

We are still on a high in Fiji from our victory in Rio this past August. A victory that swept a wave of optimism over the country that sent a strong message to the world of what a small Pacific island can accomplish. We, in Fiji, are a people with a very strong love of sport and competition, and while we are, undoubtedly, a haven for rugby, we are very keen to also become a world-class golfing destination.

It only takes one look at the beautiful course here at Natadola to see that Fiji can be major draw for golfers from all over the world. And given the talent that we have gathered here today, I would say that we are well on our way to realising Fiji’s potential.

This year, we have 132 players here to compete for the Fiji International cup. Among them is an eight time winner on the PGA tour, Brandt Snedeker. It’s his first tournament in Fiji, so allow me to give Brandt a special “Bula Vinaka” on behalf of the Fijian people.

Vijay Singh is also here today, and we have had the pleasure of hosting Vijay for all three years of the tournament. Vijay, thank you for always being such a proud ambassador of Fiji, and as always, it’s great to have you.

Steve Jeffress, our inaugural winner, is also back for a third year. We’re very proud you’ve joined us again, Steve, and I can’t wait to see you in action.

I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful ambience here at the Intercontinental and are looking forward to playing on our premier course here in Natadola.

But I must tell you, while this venue and the course are both incredibly beautiful – they are only a taste of what Fiji has to offer. Our many beautiful islands and beaches, along with our unique culture and the hospitality afforded by our people, truly make Fiji a special place, and it is something I hope you all can experience.

I know that some of our competitors are here with their families and that is wonderful to see. We are a world-famous family destination, so I’m glad that in the midst of the demanding international circuit you’ve found some time to enjoy the Fijian experience with your loved ones. And for our other competitors, I hope that’s an experience you’ll share with your own families when we next see you again.

As I’m sure those who have been with us the past three years can testify, golf in Fiji has come a very long way. Our partnership with PGA Australia has done wonders in getting more Fijians interested in the game, and in preparing our tourism industry to better cater for casual and professional golfing competition.

2700 Fijian students from around the country are participating in junior golf clinics. We’ve offered free golf lessons in our capital, conducted “Give Golf a Go” roadshows throughout the country and, for this tournament; we’ve certified 45 Fijians from Sanasana village as caddies who are available for our competitors.

With Vijay, we’ve already seen that a country of our size can make outsized contributions to the game of golf. And it would be shame for other talent to go unrecognised, so I’m proud of the work we’re doing and look forward to making golf even more popular among our young people.

To all of you – players, officials, sponsors and spectators – welcome again to Fiji on behalf of the Fijian Government and the Fijian people.

We’re delighted to have you here at Natadola. I hope you enjoy the experience and also provide some great golf for the vast television audience watching around the world.

To our visitors, I hope that you not only get to see some great golf, but that you also leave Fiji with a deeper appreciation for our culture and for the Fijian people, who I assure you, are very happy to have you.

With that, I have great pleasure in officially opening the 2016 Fiji International and wish you all a pleasant evening. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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