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Welcome home for sevens heroes

Monday 22 August 2016 | Published in Regional


Fijians line the streets to greet Rio gold medallists

FIJI – Fiji’s gold-medal-winning men’s sevens rugby team arrived home to a heroes’ welcome in Nadi on Sunday – and a similar welcome was held in the capital Suva yesterday.

The team’s flight touched down in Nadi at noon on Sunday, local time, after a journey from Brazil via Chile and Auckland.

Fans were asked not to greet the team at the airport and to instead line the streets or congregate at Prince Charles Park where an official welcome ceremony had been prepared.

The streets of Nadi were decked with banners and flags ahead of the team’s arrival.

Chanting Toso Viti Toso and other national slogans, men, women and children – many of whom had just come out of church – paraded to welcome their heroes.

The atmosphere in Nadi was just electrifying, Fiji Village reported.

“All the way from the Nadi International Airport to Prince Charles Park, thousands of people from all walks of life danced and ran with Fiji flags beside the road as the Fiji 7s team bus made its way out of the airport. Some climbed on the trees to have a good view of their heroes.”

At Prince Charles Park, the crowd frenzy level literally went through the stadium roof when the announcement was made that the team had arrived, the Fiji Times reported.

The victorious sevens members and other Team Fiji athletes were accorded a full traditional welcome ceremony when they arrived at the park.

“After the formalities, hundreds of people rushed to get autographs and pictures with the Fiji sevens players while many just wanted to touch their heroes and congratulate them on bringing happiness to the country,” Fiji Village said.

Speaking at the celebrations, the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said this was a time to remember forever.

“As a nation, we may be small but we are strong. We may have limited resources but we are determined, we are unbeatable especially when we play effectively as a team.”

The Prime Minister said millions of viewers watched as we gave the world a lesson in how sevens rugby should be played.

“As we did so, the attention of the whole world was on our tiny group of islands and for one brief shining moment we were at the centre of the world stage. On the day of our win, more people searched for Fiji on the internet than for any other subject.”

Bainimarama said the Fiji 7s men’s performance had inspired people from around the world.

“So boys, not only have you brought home gold, you have seized the spotlight for Fiji in the way no one else has ever done before and in a manner that is sure to have all sorts of benefits for every Fijian in the months and years ahead.

“More international visitors, more jobs, and an even stronger economy and something more important a tremendous boost to our pride and self-confidence as a nation.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has rallied behind Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways to use the opportunity for tactical marketing activities, social media channels, and public relations activities.

The Minister, Faiyaz Koya said the Olympic gold pushed Fiji to the forefront of the global audience.

In Nadi, Ryan told the cheering crowd how he knew from the get go his boys were going to take home the gold.

“I couldn’t stop them smiling. And when I see them smiling I know they’ll be relaxed and they’ll be ruthless,” he said. “The boys were on the shoulders of every Fijian on this island.”

Ryan has since cast a slightly wet blanket on the ongoing excitement as Fiji celebrated a national holiday yesterday and a second welcome home at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

Ryan, who has been hailed a Fijian hero, publicly confirmed on national television that he will be leaving Fiji.

Ryan said he had made the decision to move on.

“I’ve decided I’m going to leave, I haven’t signed with anybody else, I’ll go back home, I’ll reflect on all of this and will make some decisions –what will be, will be,” Ryan said.