Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Commencement of the National Stadium Project

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you.

It is my pleasure to be with you here today for the National Stadium Project.

As many of you know, the National Stadium was closed in May to enable the Sports Council to prepare the facilities for the commencement of the upgrade proper.

This initiative has been a long-time coming. In 1979, the Stadium, running track and main ground was built for $3.5million. There may be some of you here today who remember the first matches held in the then new Stadium between Fiji and the New Zealand Maoris, England and France, and the 1979 South Pacific Games.

Those are wonderful moments from Fiji’s sporting past, but now it is time to look toward Fiji’s sporting future.\

This renovation and upgrade of the National Stadium is a partnership between the Private Sector and Government. The Sports Council has secured funding for $17.5 million dollars from ANZ Bank, which has been guaranteed by my Government.

When complete, the Buckhurst & Bidesi Parks will also include three playing grounds, all new changing rooms and showers, a small stadium and a 100 meter artificial training track.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know how important sport is to all Fijians. We have a long and distinguished sporting history.

It is only fitting, therefore, that we provide our athletes with the best possible facilities to enable them to compete on the international stage; not just for the athletes we already have, but for the development of a younger generation of athletes as well.

Recognizing the importance of sports to our nation, and to encourage participation in sports overall, my Government, in this year’s Budget, put in place duty concessions on the import of sporting equipment and sporting supplements.

We must also provide our fans and spectators with a modern sports stadium that accurately reflects just how passionate we are about sports here in Fiji.

These new facilities will also better position Fiji to host regional and international sporting tournaments. This will help encourage sports tourism, contribute toward Fiji’s economy and boost Fiji’s global presence. It can also lead to related infrastructure development, and can provide new opportunities for public-private collaboration.

However, to fans and sports enthusiasts, sport is not just about dollars and development. It has a much deeper importance than that. Not only does sport hold the power to captivate the world’s attention- as we are currently witnessing in the Olympics- but to many, sport is an important part of identity: of pride for oneself, of pride for one’s city, of pride for one’s Province, or of pride for one’s country.

Sports have the ability to transform: they can speak to people in a way that words cannot. They can bring people from all communities together- in shared adversities and accomplishments- to support and promote a common national identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we cannot come to events such as these, which celebrate the future, and at the same time turn our backs on the important reform processes that are currently underway.

As many of you are aware, we are in the midst of both Electronic Voter Registration and Constitutional Consultations. It is critical that you participate in both to make your individual voice heard as we work to establish the foundation for the future of Fiji.

The consultations are not intended solely for the elite groups who have traditionally held power in this country. They seek to hear from all Fijians. No Fijian should think that they do not have anything of value to contribute. Through unique, individual experiences, each and every person has gained knowledge and insight that is important for the Commission to hear.

I understand that it is easy to say: “not today, maybe tomorrow.” Or that it is easy to think: “someone else will represent my views for me.”

However, I urge all, and in particular the youth, to take the time and make the effort. It is an investment in your future- the future of Fiji.

I would like to thank the Board and Management of the Fiji Sports Council, the ANZ Bank, and the Government agencies whose collaboration has made this upgrade a reality. I look forward to the completion of the upgrade, and more so to the sporting events to be held here when the new Stadium is scheduled to reopen in March 2013.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.