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Afternoon Tea to support Fiji's Bid to Host a World Sevens Series

February 26, 2018       Boron House, Suva.

The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. John O’Connor

The Management and staff of the Fiji Rugby Union

The remaining members of the Fiji National Sevens Team

Members of the Media

Ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

Thank you for attending this afternoon tea, which is being held specifically to demonstrate our support for Fiji’s bid to host a World Sevens Series.

In a moment from now, I shall have the pleasure to register my support on-line. And I invite all Fijians who have yet to do so to please follow suit before the deadline for the submission of our bid to the World Rugby body.

As Fiji’s President and Head of State, I deem it appropriate that I should show my support for our bid. This is also being done in my additional capacity as the Patron of the Fiji Rugby Union.

And this is not only because we are the Olympic Champions in Sevens Rugby, but it is also because I am aware of what the game of Sevens could do to unite our people and our nation. We saw this happen in 2016 when we collected our first medal ever – and a gold for that matter - in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. The resultant euphoria and the strong national sense of unity among our people both in Fiji and beyond our beautiful islands were unprecedented. 

Immediately after our win, Fiji became the most researched country on Google! I can imagine that many people around the world have come to know about our Nation and would love to visit our shores. Just over the weekend, one of the television stations aired a movie where the Incredible Hulk was said to have left the company of his fellow avengers to come to Fiji! I am told that other movies carry the same line. 

Fiji is now a brand name in the international community. We are not only well known in Sevens Rugby, but our Nation is also known for punching well above its weight through various other global efforts.

We are currently the President of COP23, leading the world’s attempts to decisively address climate change. We have presided over the United Nations General Assembly. We have chaired the largest voting bloc in the United Nations – the Group of 77 Plus China. And, among other leadership roles, we remain committed to world peace through our participation in peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries. 

The unity that our Olympic win brought to Fiji was unprecedented in magnitude. But, of course, it was not the only occasion that the whole of Fiji was united in joy. Fiji has won the Sevens World title – the Melrose Cup - twice in 1997 and in 2005. 

Fiji has also dominated the Hong Kong Sevens tournament since the annual event began in 1976. In fact, my research shows that Fiji has won the Hong Kong title the most times with 17 wins. And we are the current champions! Fiji has also won the World Sevens Series. And, early this month, we started to find our winning form by winning the first Hamilton Sevens as part of the World Sevens Series.

Ladies and gentlemen, the game of Sevens rugby is no longer just a sport. It has become a source of livelihood for many of our players. Many players started their rugby career through the Sevens code. Most of them have moved on to play in the full 15-a-side code and have secured lucrative contracts overseas. Their families and the Nation benefit when they send remittances home. In recent years, remittances have become among the top revenue earners for our economy.

In summary ladies and gentlemen, our support for the bid to host a World Sevens Series is not only because we are champions in the code. Or because we are receiving some economic boost from our sports people abroad. It is all these and more.

Rugby is our national sport. It is part of our culture. Metaphorically speaking, rugby is in our blood!

I thank all Fijians for supporting our bid.

May Almighty God continue to Bless our beloved Nation.

Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.