As it turned out, Fiji government did declare a national holiday for them.
Deciding to skip out of the 2016 Olympics Closing Ceremony, the rugby sevens team of Fiji’s Olympic delegation has flown straight out of Rio just this Sunday August 21, back to their country, where a jubilantly frenzied nation is eagerly awaiting the return of their great sports heroes, having won for the country its first Olympic medals – and gold ones to boot.
The moment they stepped out of the plane at Fiji’s international airport in Nadi according to Fox Sports, the rugby sevens boys were shuttled off along the town’s streets, lined with joyfully screaming fans and decorated with flags, until reaching Prince Charles Park where they were accorded an official welcoming ceremony and acclaimed as the “Greatest Rugby Sevens Team in the World.”
Osea Kolinisau, captain of the much celebrated team, was overwhelmed by the festive mood and the near rabid enthusiasm of his countrymen for their triumph. The 18,000-seat stadium in Prince Charles Park was filled to capacity by singing and dancing well-wishers. With his gold medal around his neck like the rest of his teammates, he told local and international journalists, “We knew it was going to be crazy but not this crazy.”
Their story was a combo of firsts. It was the first time their sevens version of rugby – seven players on the field in a seven-minute- per-half game – was ever included as a Summer Olympic event. This eventually led to their first medals of any color for Fiji, gold even, after a lopsided 43-7 finals win against Great Britain, their former colonizer.
It became one of the most iconic stories in the Olympics at Rio, and transformed their island nation with less than a million in population, into the hottest place ever. For a brief time after their medal finish, internet surfers actually searched for Fiji more than any subject (including “Pokémon Go”). And more sports fans the world over have begun taking a greater interest in rugby sevens.
After the Nadi celebrations, the team took a domestic flight to the capital city, Suva. There an even grander welcome party was waiting for them. As stated before, a bank holiday has been declared, so that every Fijian can take to the streets and join in the victorious festivities.
“As a nation we may be small but we are strong,” spoke Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of his island nation being home to the most celebrated rugby players in the present. “We have limited resources but we are determined and unbeatable especially when we play effectively as a team. The win has inspired people from around the world.”
The team’s coach, Ben Ryan form the very same nation his team beat, believes the victory came not because his players were carrying their nation’s hopes on their shoulders, but that the nation was carrying the players on their shoulders. He has been awarded the highest honor on the country whose team he had coached, the Order of Fiji, along with a $14,700 bonus.
Photo Credit to edition.cnn.com