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Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
The Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and team of the Fiji Sports Council,
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

Today is a very big day for athletes everywhere in Fiji, as we open one major sporting development here in Suva, the first-ever Head Office of the Fiji Sports Council, and re-open another, the newly upgraded FMF Gymnasium.

We are a nation blessed with incredibly talented and dedicated athletes. All around the globe, people know Fiji because they know that we field some of the fiercest competitors in the world. Despite our limited resources, we never leave anything on the field, we always play our hardest and we’ve earned a reputation for athletic excellence. Whether through our Flying Fijians taking Gold in Rio, our Fiji Pearls storied legacy as champions in the Pacific or any of our Fijian athletes playing rugby, football, cricket, netball, and other sports for teams in countries around the world.

Our success has brought us tremendous opportunity. Not only to support our athletes on the global stage, but to capitalise on the sporting culture we have here at home, to harness our love of sport to keep the Fijian people healthy and active, and to build up Fiji into a bigger and better destination for sports tourism– a nation where athletes everywhere want to compete and fans around the world want to visit to watch world-class sporting competition.

My Government has seen that potential from the very beginning. Our support to our athletes has been unwavering – particularly to our young people -- so that Fiji can continue to produce top-tier athletic talent. We’ve steadily delivered high-quality sporting infrastructure, giving Fijians everywhere in Fiji more opportunity to play sports, stay active and keep themselves healthy. And we’ve put in the necessary infrastructure and attracted the right mix of investment to bring more international and regional sporting events to our country – and we’ve seen big economic gains as a result.

The new FSC Headquarters in front of us today represents a four million dollar investment in a modern and professional multi-purpose sports administration complex. My Government has made just over a million dollar contribution to the construction of this complex, with the remaining amount sourced by the FSC themselves.

The location of this new headquarters could not be more fitting. As some of you may remember – at least those old enough – this used to be Suva’s first major indoor sporting facility, build back in 1979. And now it is home to the FSC, and from this new HQ they will look after the entire network of sporting facilities we have here in the country, and support my Government’s ambitious agenda for developing sport in Fiji.

What we are opening here today is only the beginning. As time goes on this complex will continue to grow, and become Fiji and the Pacific’s largest fully integrated Sports Centre – a one stop shop for sporting events, with world-class accommodation facilities so we can support bigger and better sporting competitions in Fiji in the years ahead.

When those events do come to Fiji, they bring much more than entertainment for the Fijian people. They bring tourists, teams and sponsors, and drum up serious economic activity – that means more money spent in Fiji, more jobs for our people and more visibility for our country on television screens all around the world.

My Government knows how to grow economy -- we’ve grown the Fijian economy for eight years straight. My Government we knows how to create jobs, as unemployment in Fiji stands at the lowest rate in 30 years. And we know how to make sports tourism work for Fiji, whether it be the Fiji International or the Super Rugby series, we are realising our great potential as a premier destination for sport and we are putting Fiji on the map for sports fans around the world. Later this year, we will be hosting the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships in Fiji, then in 2019 we will host the IWF World Junior Weightlifting Championships and, in 2021, the INF World U20 Netball Cup. Bringing us even more great opportunities to solidify our reputation as a sporting destination.

When we find new ways to spur our economy, we can bring more development to Fiji for the benefit of our people. I’ve just returned from a week in the North, where we opened a slate of new development projects, extending critical services and delivering new infrastructure for ordinary Fijians. That was all made possible because our economy has grown at such a tremendous rate.

All across Fiji, our economic success has enabled us to invest in gyms, parks, and sporting facilities for our people as well. Giving more Fijians more opportunity to get moving, get healthy and take positive steps towards living healthier lifestyles.

This year alone, we are spending 2.1 million dollars to complete the long awaited Vunisea Sports Complex in Kadavu and the Sawaieke Sports Complex in Gau, and continue construction of the Vunidawa Sports Complex in Naitasiri. We are currently constructing a, 10 lane Olympic competition size pool in Lautoka, a new Valelevu Sports Stadium, and a new public swimming pool in Nasinu, along with dozens of rural sports fields throughout the country. And, just down the road, we plan to refurbish the Vodafone Arena.

Just over one year ago we completed work on Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka and, here in Suva, we opened the newly redeveloped Albert Park, and it’s brought an energy to our capital unlike anything we’ve seen before. Every day after work you can see hundreds of people working out and playing soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis on the park grounds – Fijians staying healthy, spending time with their friends and family and enjoying the benefits of a growing and prosperous economy.

And of course, we’ve also just completed the new National Gymnasium. The facility represents an investment of nearly five million dollars by my Government; an investment that has bought a new roof, new flooring, a state of the art sound system, better lighting, a new lift to ensure better access for those living with disabilities, and an extended event area that can now accommodate up to 200 people.

We’ve made these investments and we are delivering these developments for the health and wellbeing Fijian people. We want to give every Fijian, everywhere possible, the resources and opportunity to work out, play sports and keep themselves fit. And I want to be very clear; all of these facilities are for all Fijians. Not just men -- but everyone in Fijian society.

I want to speak directly to women, our young people, those who are elderly and those living with disabilities: you are all entitled to use these athletic spaces. All of Fiji’s sporting facilities -- including the new National Gymnasium -- belong to you as much as anyone, and you should use them to keep yourselves healthy and active, and you should encourage all of your friends and family to join you and do the same.

To the FSC staff who are with us today: Thank for all that you do. Your work supports athletic competition in Fiji, and sports are one of the greatest forces for unity in Fijian society. Sports inspire our people, they fill us with national pride and instil us with belief in what our great nation can achieve. So vinaka vakalevu for your hard work and for the contribution you all make to building our nation and strengthening the bonds that unite us, as Fijians.

Lastly, I know I speak for all of us here today, and every Fijian, when I commend our Fijianas on a difficult, but hard-fought performance at the Sydney Sevens, and wish our Flying Fijians the best of luck against Russia and New Zealand this evening. Play hard and make us proud!

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications