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URGENT AND IMPORTANT
The past 2 years were again dominated by the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the second wave of the virus necessitating a lockdown in April 2021. We were fortunate that our 9th Annual Conference was scheduled for March so that our move to a two-day conference took place without hindrance. That enabled us to bring everyone together and on the first day of the Conference address the National Action Plan for Violence against Women and Children. Feedback from the National Sporting Organizations emphasized their appreciation for being able to participate in a forum that highlighted this vitally important National Plan. Although the second COVID wave brought the second lockdown, there are positives that arose out of the situation. Amongst these are the partnerships that the Commission has been able to establish, especially with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, and with a number of Women’s Groups and Women and Children’s Organizations.
Our move to virtual platforms enabled us to keep in better touch with all our sporting organizations and keep them more involved. In this way, we have been able to host six-monthly or quarterly meetings with sporting bodies, rather than meeting face-to-face on an annual basis. It has also facilitated our being better equipped to identify and address existing gaps. These gaps were not necessarily the result of COVID but were caused by gaps within the system. During this time, we detected what appeared to be a move, not from the urban to the rural sector as is usually observed, but more the reverse. Many youths working in the Tourism industry, for example, have returned to their rural roots, and it became even more important for the Sporting Commission to capture these significant data sets, working through our sporting organizations and sporting clubs. Through our expanded use of the virtual platform during the lockdown period we were able to engage with a number of teachers, through our Educate the Educator Program, introducing virtual programs for teachers that ran over several days. One of the best things that the Sports Commission learnt during this financial year is that training does not need to be face-to-face. It can take place under the new norm of working with mobile phones, and computers and using a virtual platform.
With the new COVID protocols and our own COVID protocols for sports in place, we were unable to travel to islands and rural areas, creating a major question; how can we judge the achievement of our programs if we are unable to physically follow up with the communities we have delivered to? We very quickly found that this too, could be addressed through our own virtual platforms and again, this is another example of ‘out of something bad something good happens’. From a management point of view, and as the Executive Chairman of the Sports Commission, the virtual platform has enabled us to protect the members of the Board while hosting Board meetings using Zoom technology. It has enabled my keeping in closer communication with my fellow CEOs in New Zealand, Australia, England, Canada, and the Pacific Islands.
I now have more knowledge of what is happening in sports in the region and around the world than I ever had, before the days of using Zoom technology. I was very proud of the staff and the way they quickly mobilized in support of the Ministry of Health’s vaccination drive program. They worked closely with the Ministry’s front liners and were able to use our established community networks to assist with profiling and the vaccination rollout. At first, we encountered an anti-vaccination attitude amongst people in many of the communities we visited. It helped to change these attitudes when the FNSC people came in with the front liners. Familiar faces and relationships already built on trust played a significant role in bringing about these attitudinal shifts. This is yet another demonstration that even during times of hardship, positives can arise that may not be directly sports related, but are firmly based on relationships that have evolved through sport.
The Commission has always recognized the importance of developing these positive relationships, and we now have an extensive, growing relationship with the wider community, as people continue to take advantage of the Wellness video series we have developed with the assistance of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. Even during periods of lockdown or isolation, people, including those with disabilities, the elderly, and whole families, can still exercise at home. As FNSC is bound to look after people from birth to old age, regardless of ability, gender, or age, we recognize that our programs are not limited to one gender or age group, for example, just for youths aged 18 to 25. To augment our existing inclusive programs, we are in the process of developing an ongoing Wellness Program to address Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
This is in response to the now global recognition that physical activity and sports are the best ways to combat and prevent NCDs. The Sports Commission has been in existence for a decade now, and as we move into our 10-year celebrations in 2022, there is the realization that we have had huge achievements within FNSC, and many of these have come about during, and even because of, the pandemic. last year our conference concentrated very much on worldwide problems that we also have here. Problems such as drug abuse, crime, and health-related issues, are being addressed through all our programs. Concerned members of the general public can find answers to these problems in the sports and physical activities that we provide. People are seeing that professional sports people can be affected by their lifestyle choices. Even a top sports person can be locked in prison as easily as the next person if they make bad decisions. The Sports Commission is working on putting in place Drug-Free Sports in Fiji, as drug abuse amongst sports people is a gap we have identified. In the Olympics, we have seen the problem of international elite athletes testing positive for banned substances.
As we support our elite athletes in their sporting careers, we need to bring the importance of mentoring the whole person to the attention of our sporting organizations We continue to work with our sports people to focus on health and lifestyle choices, and not just elitism. Elitism is something we all identify with because of our Men’s Rugby 7s Olympic Gold medal wins in Rio in 2016, and again in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held in 2021, but the Bronze medal win at Tokyo by our Women’s 7s Team is just as important. This is tangible evidence that we are addressing the gender balance in all our sports development. The phenomenal growth and success in this area are all the more significant, as it would only be about eight years ago that we campaigned for the acceptance and inclusion of women by the Fiji Rugby Union.
The major achievement of the gold and bronze medals at the Tokyo Olympics is through the Sports Commission funding of our international sports teams and our international coaches. This was made possible by funding support by Government. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, (our Line Ministry), and the Ministry of Economy for our funding assistance. Thank you, also, to Government for the continued commitment to the development of sports at all levels.
My sincere thanks to my Board of Directors. Their invaluable support and advice throughout what has been a demanding and stimulating year are most appreciated. A very special thank you to the Fiji National Sports Commission staff. I commend you all for the innovative program delivery and your positive response in challenging circumstances. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with our stakeholders in the development of sporting excellence and to continue to help lay the foundations throughout the wider community for a healthy, active nation.
We design sports development programs in such a way that they cover all sectors of the community. Our Development Unit operates from three offices in Suva (for the Central and Eastern Division), Lautoka (Western Division) and Labasa (Northern Division).
Sports Development Officers based in the divisions are tasked to plan, deliver and report on programs they deliver in the community.
We aim to create and improve sports development opportunities at all levels.