Rio 2016: Wild celebrations mark Fiji’s rugby gold
Ecstatic scenes on the streets after team from the small Pacific nation beats Britain in the final to land gold.
Fiji has announced a further day of public holiday after the Pacific island nation’s rugby sevens team won the country’s first Olympic medal.
Fiji were crowned the first men’s Olympic sevens champions on Thursday after crushing Great Britain 43-7 in the final of the inaugural tournament at Rio 2016.
With a population of around 900,000, Fiji has long punched above its weight in international rugby, particularly in the sevens game which rewards the pace, power and skill of its distinctive brand of play.
Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister, attended every day of the three-day competition, shunning the VIP area to sit with Fijian fans in the stands.
“They’re all celebrating. They’ve been celebrating for the last three days,” he said.
“We’ve got celebrations programmed for when [the team] returns … We are all proud to be Fijians right now.”
Al Jazeera’s Yaara Bou Melhem, reporting from Nadi in Fiji, said the celebrations are expected to last for more than a week.
“When the players return, that’s when the real party starts.”
In a breathtaking display of power rugby, the Fijians ran in five tries to take a 29-0 lead at half time before taking their collective foot off the gas a little and adding only two more after the break.
Skipper Osea Kolinisau, Jerry Tuwai, Jasa Veremalua, Leone Nakarawa, Vatemo Ravouvou, Josua Tuisova and Viliame Mata all scored tries as Fiji collected its first Olympic title at its 14th Games.
@fijirugby the party has already started 😂😂😂@skunex91 Vinaka Na qito Qere 😊#kereholiday #VitiNoquViti #veilomani pic.twitter.com/dji33ZURBz
— Episake Kahatoka (@KahatokaEpisake) August 11, 2016
“I knew that one day this boy was going to wear the Fiji jersey because he likes rugby,” said Vatili Dawai, father of a Fiji player, Kitione Taliga, as a tear rolled down his cheek.
“When he was young, he used to always take the ball with him and run around in the village.”
Bainimarama also hinted there would be rewards for Fiji’s players and British coach Ben Ryan but hoped his country would soon get back to work after the appropriate amount of celebrating.
“Our productivity has been nil in the last couple of days, but hopefully the GDP will go in up in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
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They were the first men’s rugby medals awarded at the Olympics since the 1924 Paris Games, where the US won gold in the 15-a-side game.
New Zealand, who have dominated sevens for much of the past two decades but were sent out of the tournament by the Fijians in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, finished fifth.