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The Homecoming Dinner for Team Fiji to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

April 20, 2018       Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva.

The Minister for Youth and Sports, the Honourable Laisenia Tuitubou

The President of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, Mr. Joseph Rodan

The Team Fiji Chef de Mission, Mr. Patrick Bower

Team Fiji Athletes and Officials

Corporate Sponsors

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Assalaamu Alaykum, Ni Hao, Noa’ia ‘e mauri, and a very good evening to you all.

My wife Sarote and I are deeply honoured to join you this evening to welcome home the athletes and team officials who proudly represented Fiji at the 21st Commonwealth Games that was held at the Gold Coast in Australia from the 4th to the 15th of April 2018.

On behalf of all Fijians, it is my greatest pleasure to convey to all Team Fiji members our collective gratitude and sincere appreciation for flying Fiji’s flag in arguably the third-largest gathering of multiple sports in the world.

To all the 140-plus athletes and officials, I congratulate you for taking on the challenge to represent your sport and, ultimately, the Nation. 

I know that you have all given your best. You are an inspiration to our youth who may be considering carving their own pathways in the sports that they choose to follow. 

Your selection into Team Fiji and your participation at the Commonwealth Games is now part of the annals of Fiji’s sporting history, and the Commonwealth community’s history. 

And as Fiji’s President and Head of State, I commend you all for your courage, determination and ambition to push the boundaries of positive competitiveness in the sporting arena.

You competed against the elite athletes of the 71 participating Commonwealth countries and territories. As elite athletes yourselves, being part of the Commonwealth experience automatically sets you on a path of discovery, and should already have elevated your perspective of commitment to achieving greater success in life.

We live in an era where technology and state of the art equipment supposedly dictate the performance of athletes, regardless of whether he or she belongs to the track, field, or in individual or group sports. 

While that is important, it is ultimately your commitment as individuals to your training programme and properly implementing your trainers’ instructions that will make an impact on your performance as an athlete.

Now that you have competed, the journey does and should not end here. The onus is on you to build on the experiences of the 21st Commonwealth Games to improve your personal performances. 

This should be reflected in how you train, and help you expand your point of view on the science of sports. It is now a part of your legacy. Whether you won a medal or not, at the end of the day, it is the valuable lessons that you have gained from this lifetime opportunity that is crucial to you moving forward. Harness it smartly. 

Tonight ladies and gentlemen, I wish to also acknowledge the unwavering support and sacrifice that your respective family members have shown and made over time, to enable you to prepare yourselves through your sporting journey.

I also wish to thank all the sponsors, including Government, for helping out in the preparation of our athletes. These are all contributions that deserve recognition because you all helped provide the opportunity for our athletes and officials to represent our beloved Nation. 

Ladies and gentlemen, supporting the holistic growth of sports is what Government hopes to do given that sport is part and parcel of Nation-building. Government recognizes that sport is not only an industry that could provide a livelihood for those choosing to join the professional ranks, but importantly, it recognizes the need for all Fijians to develop an active and healthy lifestyle.I am happy to note that Government has included major plans to support sports through the development of sporting infrastructure as outlined in its 5-year and 20-year National Development Plan. The Government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, is developing sports complexes in Vunisea and Sawaieke.  

It is important to ensure that every Fijian is able to participate in physical activity whether for recreation, fitness, social activity or for competition.  While sports facilities support this, it is not necessary as we can use the beautiful landscape, which we Fijians are privileged to have around us.

The Ministry also has a programme to develop basic sports infrastructure around the country in our rural, maritime and interior areas. 

Again, I hope that these are used to the fullest. And as Fiji’s Lead Advocate and Champion in the national campaign to reduce Non-Communicable Diseases, I urge us all to make use of all facilities to ensure we combat diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other NCDs.

I look forward to experiencing the refurbishment of the Vodafone Arena which has now closed. This will be yet another jewel in the crown for us and I recollect the Arena when it was first opened for the South Pacific Games in 2003 – a generous gesture from our longstanding friends, the People’s Republic of China.

Government also has plans to continue to provide financial and other forms of support in the preparation of elite athletes through the Fiji Sports Commission and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This support has continued to grow over recent years and is underpinned by sports development programmes.  

However, I know that there will be an assessment of the return on investment and I am pleased that some of this is already evident in the medalists from these Commonwealth Games. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe that sports and sportspeople like yourselves can be part of the solution to a major problem our country is facing – that is the extremely high level of NCDs that is contributing to the death of 80 percent of our people under the age of 70. 

Our people are dying young because of NCDs like diabetes and heart attack, among others.

These diseases could be reduced and eliminated if we have a fit and healthy nation. 

We could also reduce the high cost of medical bills where are spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually. 

Whilst national spending on health and medical services are important, we can help reduce the cost of treatment for diseases that are within our control. 

We need all Fijians to take a more responsible approach to looking after their health. NCDs are diseases that we can overcome by staying fit and healthy.  

Imagine if we can re-direct some of the funds currently channeled to treat NCD-related illnesses to add to our Nation’s current investments in the development of education, sports, our youth, and national infrastructure, and so on. 

From a sports perspective, investing more into our sporting facilities and into highly qualified coaches and officials could enhance our chances of being Commonwealth, World and Olympic champions across many sports. 

And, importantly, this could enhance our chances of living longer, healthier and happier lives.

And so, as sports people, I invite all of you to join me in promoting a fit and healthy nation through sport or through other forms of physical exercise like farming or gardening. 

Encourage your families and neighbours to be active. And let us all encourage our Nation to be more health conscious.

Ladies and gentlemen, since taking on the role of President and Head of State, I have been promoting a culture of appreciation because I believe that, as a Nation, we must all learn to demonstrate our gratitude for those who make an effort to improve not only their own lives, but also the lives of members of their local communities. 

I believe that we must also show our appreciation to those who give their time, effort and resources selflessly, and to those who are able to transcend the confines of self-limitation and self-centeredness to achieve outstanding results and in the process, contribute to Fiji’s growth. 

And tonight, it is an honour for me to wear my hat as the Chancellor of the Order of Fiji, and to announce that the Fiji College of Honour will recognize the achievements of the medal winners. 

Just as the Nation recognised the achievements of our Olympic Gold medalists in 2016, we need to continue this trend so that all our high achievers will know that your Nation is always in support of, and will reward, extraordinary performances.

My Office will promulgate the necessary procedures with the relevant official, and arrange the investiture ceremony on a mutually convenient date.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I want to ask all members of Team Fiji to Share the Dream! 

Share your experiences, your moments of triumphs and setbacks, and your aspirations. 

Our Nation will grow stronger and better when people like you share your knowledge to inspire and motivate others to grow.

Once again, on behalf of our Nation, I extend to you all a very warm welcome home.

May Almighty God continue to bless you all in your endeavours. And may He continue to bless our beloved Nation - Fiji. 

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Xie Xie, Fai’eksia and Thank you.