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Opening of the Oceania Weightlifting Championship 2016

May 24, 2016       Vodafone Arena, Suva

The Minister for Youth and Sports, Honourable Lt-Col Laisenia Tuitubou;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
The President of the International Weightlifting Federation;
International and Regional Weightlifting Executives;
Athletes of the Oceania Region;
Invited Guests;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaskar, Noa’ia e Mauri and a very Good Evening.

I warmly welcome you all to Suva City, our nation’s capital, your home for the next 5 days of competition.

A little over 2 months ago, most parts of our country faced the wrath of one of nature’s most brutal forces yet experienced in Fiji and, indeed, in the Pacific in the Category 5 destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Many of our people are still recovering and many of us are rebuilding literally from nothing.

We have, as a nation, committed to being resilient, to picking ourselves up, off the rubble and moving on. 

Indeed, members of the Fiji weightlifting team living in Levuka on Ovalau were also affected and the weightlifting hall at Baba was destroyed. 

No one, it seems, was spared including our sportspeople. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Oceania Weightlifting Federation for your kind contribution to the weightlifters of Levuka – vinaka vakalevu.

However, today’s joyous occasion has come to fruition due to the resilience of our region’s lifters to move on to greater heights. I congratulate you all for your hard work in preparing yourselves for the journey towards Rio.

“Sports” play a pivotal role in national development and therefore sportswomen and sportsmen are integral parts of fostering such advancement and progress.

I am particularly supportive of sport as it promotes physical and mental well-being and, as the national champion of our campaign against Non-communicable Diseases or lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cancer, heart disease and dementia, I actively promote the use of sport and physical activity. 

The impact of sport is greater when we use it to develop the individual and the community. It helps to build self-confidence, to enable young people to achieve better academic results, to build teamwork based on mutual respect, to develop an understanding of the rules of the game and therefore the application of the rules of life. 

Weightlifting is a fundamental sport requiring skill and precision, balance and strength.  It is tactical in nature and lifters are very focused in competition.  It openly encourages the participation of both men and women, young and old.  It becomes a way of life.

In Fiji, we continue to support many sports as part of our development initiative.  We are working with Oceania sports federations to contribute to the development of sport in the region not only by hosting events such as this but also in hosting academies as we work to become a hub for the Pacific.

In a matter of weeks, our people, our Oceania will enthusiastically get behind those of you that make it to the 2016 Olympic Games. The time between today and then, will pass very quickly as you move from the process of qualification to preparation for the big event. 

I certainly hope that the strength of the Oceania will be well- represented in Rio. While Australia is the only country from the region to have won a medal in the Olympic Games, I hope that there will be more medals for us as we continue to develop and challenge the powerhouses in weightlifting.

We have less than 75 days to go! As I speak, the 2016 Olympic torch, as part of its relay, is working its way through Brazil to Rio de Janeiro, a timeless reminder of the mission we are all striving towards.

The Olympics will showcase the best the world has to offer and it will be a spectacular showcase of resilience and human spirits. 

It will also bring into effect the “Olympic Truce” supported by the United Nations and, as the President of the International Olympic Committee, His Excellency Thomas Bach, said at its lighting in Ancient Olympia last month:

“…the flame is a timeless reminder that we are all part of the same humanity.  The flame is an ancient symbol of peace and harmony, a symbol of the power of humanity to come together despite our differences…”

I would like to encourage you all to put forth your BEST in the next few days. Be determined to push yourselves, to lift to greater heights. You will all undoubtedly have your own keys to success and I am humbled by your devotion to your sport and the sacrifices you have made to get here. 

I am confident that Pacific athletes can amaze the world at the Rio Olympics, and that Pacific lifters will put in tough challenges for weightlifters from around the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Event Partners and generous Sponsors. I also acknowledge the work of the Organizing Committee, the officials, and volunteers who have all generously offered their assistance over the past few months to prepare what I am sure will be a memorable event.

I wish athletes and officials the best for this Championship and I hope for the spirit of good sportsmanship on an even playing field to prevail.  I wish those of you who qualify for the Olympic Games well in your preparation and I know that you will represent us in true Pacific style.

I now declare the 2016 Oceania Weightlifting Championship officially open.

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Faiek’sea, thank you very much and good luck to you all.