Power of sports has helped us to move on af­ter Cy­clone Win­ston

Fiji Sun - - Comment - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

In 2000, the late Nel­son Man­dela de­scribed sports’ pos­i­tive im­pact best at the Lau­reus World Sports Awards. He said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to in­spire. It has the power to unite peo­ple in a way that lit­tle else does. It speaks to youth in a lan­guage they un­der­stand. Sport can create hope where once there was only de­spair.” We see that happening right here. In Fe­bru­ary this year, Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston dev­as­tated many homes and schools. Lives were lost and in­fra­struc­ture de­stroyed. The to­tal dam­age was es­ti­mated at more than $2 mil­lion. One of the coun­try’s top schools, Queen Vic­to­ria School, was de­stroyed, forc­ing the re­lo­ca­tion of its students to other schools while the In­done­sia De­fence Force re­build the school. The psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma from that dis­as­ter would have been enough to se­ri­ously put off the QVS students from their fo­cus on their aca­demic stud­ies and sports. But it seems to have had lit­tle ef­fect on the students. Through the power of sport, in this case, rugby, they have come to­gether from the dif­fer­ent schools they are at­tend­ing, to train at one venue, at Bidesi Park, in Suva, for the busi­ness end of the Coke Zero Deans Tro­phy com­pe­ti­tion. Their achieve­ment so far has been amaz­ing. They have de­fied the odds. They have sac­ri­ficed. They have tena­ciously hung on to their never-say-die school tra­di­tion in any bat­tle, par­tic­u­larly on the sports field. The re­sults speak for them­selves. All their age-group teams bar the Un­der-19 are in the fi­nals on Satur­day at the ANZ Sta­dium in Suva. That’s an in­cred­i­ble feat achieved through the unit­ing power of rugby. Another ex­am­ple is the in­domitable spirit of the pri­mary schools par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Rewa Galaxy Kaji Rugby com­pe­ti­tion and the Pun­jas-Dig­i­cel Pri­mary School Netball Cham­pi­onships in Suva this week. The schools have come from all over the coun­try in­clud­ing ar­eas that were hit hard by Cy­clone Win­ston. They have come to Suva with big sup­port groups which in­cluded their par­ents, fam­i­lies, teach­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties. In cricket, Suva, Nau­sori and Navua pri­mary schools will be play­ing the fi­nals at the Veiuto grounds in Suva on Satur­day.

This is a great sport­ing week. In ad­di­tion to the school’s sports, Nadroga, rugby win­ner of the Skip­per Cup, beat­ing Suva 17-12, last Satur­day, pre­pare for their first Fare­brother-Sul­li­van Chal­lenge against Suva at Lawaqa Park, Si­ga­toka. This Satur­day will also be the round two of the Voda­fone Rugby Tro­phy com­pe­ti­tion.

To cap off the week, all eyes are on the Fiji men’s sev­ens team in the Rio Olympics. The whole na­tion is bank­ing on Ben Ryan and his men to bring home the gold medal.

Fi­jians have risen from the rub­bles left be­hind by Cy­clone Win­ston, put aside their dif­fer­ences and united to back our Olympians. If we win a medal, even gold, we will go through a na­tional eu­pho­ria, cel­e­brat­ing and hoist­ing high the no­bel ban­ner blue. In our quiet mo­ments of con­tem­pla­tion as we wait anx­iously for our open­ing match against Brazil, there is lit­tle or no thought of post-Win­ston. One of the em­pow­er­ing in­flu­ences of sport is the will to over­come our chal­lenges. This sport­ing week is ev­i­dence that Cy­clone Win­ston is now history and we have moved on as a na­tion.

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