Ni sa Yadra Vinaka, Namaaste, Welcome!
My thanks to:
- The President of the Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Association
- The General Manager of Coca Cola Fiji
- Associate Sponsors, Principals, Guests, Officials, Parents and Supporters
- And most importantly today’s very special VIP’s – our young athletes from all around Fiji.
It is a great honour for me to be here to officially open the 2014 Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Championships – The Coca Cola Games.
On a personal level, I hope you will all keep sport a part of your lives as you grow older, part of a healthy lifestyle. I played football, badminton and did the high jump when I was younger, then focused on rugby from age 12, only giving that up when I was 44. In my 50s I still enjoy walking, golf and tennis. Sport, and tough competition with a spirit of fairplay, prepare you well for many of the challenges of life.
The air of anticipation, apprehension and competition is very evident today at the ANZ Stadium.
As you all know, these Games have a long history. They began as a competition in the 1960s between four Government Schools.
And in 1973, the first Secondary School Athletics Competition was held. Today there are a total of 17 zones with 170 schools in the Association.
In 1950 Fiji’s athletes participated in the British Empire Games (the forerunner of the Commonwealth Games) in New Zealand and won 5 medals - in the Shot Put, Discus and Javelin.
In fact Fiji has participated 14 times in the Commonwealth Games - the Friendly Games.
I was delighted when Fiji was invited back to participate in this year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland in July, in only 3 months time.
I hope we will see some of you young athletes qualify through the Coke’s to bear Fiji’s colours at the Glasgow Games. If you do, I can truthfully say that Glasgow is a very friendly city, and its people will give Fijian athletes and supporters a tremendous welcome.
Of course, they don’t welcome everyone - I spoke last night to Ben Ryan, your rugby 7s coach. He said that when he was the coach of England he was often given a roasting when he went to Glasgow. He looks forward to better treatment next week in Glasgow as the coach of Fiji. I said that if he has any trouble he should just point to his red hair and claim to be a lost Scotsman.
I was impressed to learn that a record 77 schools and 178 students took part in the torch relay which for the first time travelled to Kadavu, Taveuni and Ovalau.
Your torch is a historical icon as it was carried by Muhammad Ali (one of the all-time Greats of Boxing) at the opening of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Most of you are too young to recall Ali, one of the greatest characters in the history of sport. He used to talk a lot. Some of what he said was wild. But some was very wise. I’ll just give you 2 quotations.
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made of something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
Ali also said:
“I hated every minute of training. But I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
I applaud Coca-Cola’s continued sponsorship of these Games for the last 41 years and their commitment (F$767,223) this year to sponsor the event for the next four years.
The Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Championships or ‘Coke’s’ (as it is fondly known) is one of the biggest sporting competitions in Fiji with 3,000 young athletes competing in the 2-day tournament.
Each year competition becomes tougher, athletes train harder and records continue to tumble. These Games are televised live and watched keenly throughout the Pacific.
I will leave you with 3 words to guide and inspire you through the next 2 days. This is the motto of the Olympics - because I know some of you will already be aiming at Rio in 2016. The motto is: Faster, Higher, Stronger.
Vinaka vaka levu.
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