HON. PM BAINIMARAMA’S SPEECH AT THE 2019 SPECIAL OLYMPICS FIJI MEDALLISTS RECOGNITION AWARDS CEREMONY

The Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations & Youth and Sports, Hon. Parveen Bala;
Special Olympics Fiji Chairman, Mr. Bishwa Sidal;
2019 Special Olympics World Games Medallists;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and good afternoon.

I have to say, this has been a very special session of Parliament for me personally, as this is the second time this week I’ve had the privilege to spend time with all of you – the talented athletes of our Special Olympics Team.

On behalf of all your fellow Fijians, I want to thank each of you for the effort and dedication you put forward while competing for your country. Some of you have faced incredible obstacles throughout your lives, but you’ve overcome those obstacles, you’ve earned your places on Team Fiji, and you’ve done your country proud on the world stage; taking home 17 medals from the World Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi. I was particularly impressed that Team Fiji earned more gold medals than even New Zealand, and I’m glad to see we’re still punching above our weight on the world stage.

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I know for most of you, this competition was your first time leaving the country. I’m happy you’ve had the chance to experience a new part of the world, meet new people and learn new things about different countries. By taking that brave and bold step forward in your lives, you’ve inspired countless young people across the country; young people who want to be just like you when they grow up.

And while I may not be a young man anymore, you’ve inspired me as well. Your huge smiles and your positive energy are contagious; in the face of any hardship or obstacle that life has thrown at you, those smiles shine through it all. It puts all of this week’s heated debates in Parliament into perspective –– we are truly blessed to be fighting for Fijians like you.

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When I first welcomed all of you back home to Fiji and congratulated you on your stellar performance, we celebrated by getting you all some McDonald’s. But I felt that winning 17 medals for Fiji deserved something a little more than just burgers –– and I’m not talking about ice cream for dessert. That is why, today, we’re rewarding your achievement and expressing our gratitude by granting 1,000 dollars to every gold medal winner, 600 dollars for every silver medal winner and 300 dollars for every Bronze medal winner.

You’ve each earned that reward. You’ve made me proud, and you’ve made Fiji proud.

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I know you’ll continue to inspire us with your future achievements. I know you’ll continue to serve as a beacon of hope to every Fijian by showing us that no victory is out of reach and no goal is impossible.

Thank you for all that you do, and best of luck in all the competitions you have ahead.