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Keynote Address at the 2017 Fiji Sports Awards.

March 3, 2018       FMF National Gymnasium, Suva.

The Minister for Youth and Sports, Honourable Laisenia Tuitubou

Your Excellencies the Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Our Special Guest for the Fiji 2017 Sports Awards, 

Mr. Henry Speight, who I understand will be joining us shortly. 

Officials and Athletes representing the various sporting bodies in Fiji

The executives of the Fiji National Sports Commission, the Fiji Sports Council and the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaskar, Aslaam Alaikum, Ni Hao, Noa’ia e Mauri and Good Evening to you all.

At the outset, I wish to thank both the Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Minister for Youth and Sports for affording me the opportunity to attend my first Fiji Sports Awards Ceremony in my capacity as Fiji’s President and Head of State.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to acknowledge and thank the organising committee for facilitating my participation in what I have always noted, through the media, as a much anticipated, popular and prestigious awards ceremony.

 In both my capacity as the Head of State and as the Patron of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC), I wish to extend my sincere congratulations to all the nominees and the recipients of the 2017 Fiji Sports Awards.

I understand that the Fiji Sports Awards were introduced by a partnership that involved FASANOC, the Fiji Sports Council and the Fiji National Sports Commission. 

Since its inception in 2011, the event has grown in stature and is now the premier national gathering where the contributions and achievements of our athletes, coaches, administrators, volunteers, technical officials and sports federations, are recognised.

Tonight, we are here to do exactly this – to award the best sporting achievements of 2017 in 11 categories. 

We will be recognising the outstanding contributions of our athletes and all those who have worked hard behind the scenes to make 2017 a memorable sporting year for our nation. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 2017 was indeed another significant year and important milestone in sporting achievements for our beloved Fiji. 

Our athletes won medals at numerous sporting events both locally, regionally and internationally. 

At the South Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu at the end of last year, our athletes set some national and regional records, and even some Commonwealth records. 

I was fortunate enough to visit TeamFiji at the Games Village just before they went and played their hearts out. They made us all proud to be Fijians.

And so did our Under 21 National Netball Team, which made it to the top four in the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup and the Fiji Bati Team, which also made the semi-finals in the Rugby League World Cup.

Ladies and gentlemen, to assist our young athletes excel in their chosen sport, and working equally hard were the coaches, administrators, technical advisers, many of whom, I am told, have gone beyond their assigned roles to become close friends, counselors and mentors to the athletes. 

I am glad to know that we will be acknowledging and paying homage to the Coach of the Year tonight. 

In the same manner that we will also have awards for the Technical Official of the Year, the Volunteer of the Year, the Administrator of the Year, the Team of the Year, the Sport Organisation of the Year, the Young Female Athlete of the Year, the Young Male Athlete of the Year, the Good-Governance Award, and both the Fiji Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am advised that many of you here tonight will be coming together again in a month’s time to represent our nation at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia. 

I am aware that the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle of sports performance within the British Commonwealth group of nations and to qualify for the Games is in itself a milestone worth celebrating. 

To our present generation of young athletes, I would like to take this opportunity to urge and encourage you to have a revamped and renewed sense of achievement and continue the momentum in pushing beyond your boundaries. 

Believe in yourself, be passionate and go forth to achieve your dreams.

Ladies and gentlemen at this juncture, I believe it prudent, as it would be remiss of me if I do not acknowledge, commend, but more importantly, thank our corporate sponsors who have been so helpful, generous and forthcoming in supporting our athletes, coaches and administrators. Thank you very much for your support.

To our athletes, past and present, coaches, administrators and volunteers, I would also like to congratulate and thank you on behalf of all Fijians for your commitment and achievements to date and wish you well and every success in your future endeavours.

To the families and friends alike, thank you most sincerely for the very important role that you play in the lives of our athletes. 

To the members of the media, I would also like to acknowledge and commend you for your equally critical and supportive reporting of sporting events.  

The accurate and timely reporting of the sporting prowess of our sportsmen and women by the media is important in inspiring and encouraging our athletes, coaches, administrators and other important stakeholders (like our sponsors), to continue in their quest in aspiring to achieve better results.  

In fact, such favourable reporting of our achievements in the regional and international sporting arenas is always good for our national morale and psyche.

In line with an old English proverb that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’, I am so pleased to know that in tonight’s presentation we will also have an award for the sports photograph of the year.

Ladies and gentlemen, in accepting the invitation to be here tonight, I not only wanted to congratulate the winners and thank all the stakeholders who support sports in Fiji, but I also wanted to appeal to you all to be champions in wellness and healthy-living.

In my additional capacity as Fiji’s lead advocate and champion in our national campaign to reduce Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), I urge you all here tonight to please join me and other stakeholders in promoting a fit and healthy nation.

The latest medical statistics reveal that NCD related ailments contribute to about 80 percent of deaths of persons under the age of 70, and Fiji is the second highest Pacific Island country with NCD-related deaths in the region. 

This disturbing and alarming state of our national health and wellbeing must be improved upon. 

Wellness is defined as the quality or state of being healthy in body, mind, and spirit. 

As athletes, you are fitter than the average person so please remain focused and committed in maintaining and improving upon your present status of physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Many of you would have heard that our country is doing well economically. We have had eight successive years of positive economic growth. 

But, a good portion of our hard-earned money is going towards the nation’s health bills. NCDs like heart diseases and diabetes top the list of killer diseases. 

You will all agree that this should not necessarily be the case for a sport-loving nation like Fiji. 

It would appear that many of our people do not exercise regularly. Perhaps, even our sportspeople have stopped exercising after they conclude their competitive sports careers.

I wish to leave this thought with you tonight: imagine if the majority of Fijians are well and healthy. 

Imagine if a part of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently channeled towards our health bills are directed to other national development activities like improving our sporting facilities, and investing more into our athletes and officials.

Right now, we may be doing well at the international competitions. But, imagine if we were to channel more resources into our preparations. 

I can already foresee that we will not only be Olympic champions in Sevens Rugby; we could be champions in many other sports at the regional, Commonwealth, World and Olympic level.    

Additionally, I can foresee a very healthy population focused on improving our nation for our current and future generations. 

It is critical for all Fijians to know that building a sustainable and healthy nation starts with every single one of us. 

Only when we all agree to this common goal, can the entire nation continue to progress on a productive path of consistent and sustainable growth, followed by unprecedented successes at both the local and international levels.

And so, while I wish to congratulate all of you here for making sport a part of your lives, I wish to urge you to join me in the fight against NCDs, which have now become a present, real and clear threat to our nation. 

Let us be champions in promoting wellness. Let us be committed to developing the courage to do the right thing for ourselves, for others, and for our nation as a whole.

Congratulations once again to all the nominees and the winners of the 2017 Sports Awards.

May Almighty God continue to bless you and our beloved nation.

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Xie Xie, Faiek’sia, and Thank you all.