Pacific Games Council President, Vidhya Lakhan, today (29th August, 2023) presented FASANOC President, Makarita Lenoa, a framed blazer to mark the 60th anniversary of the inaugural South Pacific Games held in Suva, Fiji in 1963.
Pacific Games Council President, Vidhya Lakhan, today (29th August, 2023) presented Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee President, Makarita Lenoa, a framed blazer, worn by gold medalist Lawn Tennis athlete, to mark the 60th anniversary of the inaugural South Pacific Games held in Suva, Fiji in 1963.
Mr. Lakhan spoke briefly on the inception of the South Pacific Games which originated from the visionary Dr Abdul Habib Sahu Khan of Lautoka, who proposed the concept during the 1959 South Pacific Conference in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
"The idea gained momentum and was embraced by the South Pacific Commission”.
"In a collaborative effort, nine territories convened in Noumea in March 1961, unanimously awarding Fiji the honor of hosting the first Games," he said.
Mr. Lakhan said the blazer belonged to a lawn tennis athlete whose team won the gold medal against the then favourites Tahiti in 1963.
"The Fiji Lawn Tennis team consisted of ten athletes including the recently departed Satyanand who was Fiji's High Commissioner to New Zealand," he said.
"The blazer belonged to team mate Rahim Zullah who kept his blazer and now resides in Brisbane, Australia."
"It is my pleasure to invite the President of FASANOC to receive this blazer kindly donated by Rahim."
That was the first and only time Tennis won the Team Gold Medal at any Pacific Games for Team Fiji, making the blazer even more special.
Meanwhile 60 years ago, on 29th August 1963, the official opening ceremony of the South Pacific Games took place at Buckhurst Parkwhere the then Governor of Fiji,Sir Kenneth Maddocks,declared the Games open in the presence of 8,000 excited spectators.
The Games welcomed 770 athletes and officials from 13 nations, with Fiji fielding the largest team of 187 athletes and officials, with Kiribati and Tuvalu (then Gilbert and Ellice Islands) participating with a team of 12. Fiji topped the medal tally with 33 Gold, 23 Silver and 26 Bronze medals. Second was Papua New Guinea with 9 Gold, 11 Silver and 11 Bronze medals followed by New Caledonia with 7 Gold, 9 Silver and 11 Bronze medals.
In the spirit of unity and competition, athletes from across the Pacific competed in ten sports: Athletics, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Netball, Rugby Union, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, and Volleyball. These events showcased the dedication, skill, and sportsmanship of the participants, leaving a lasting impression on the Pacific sports landscape.
The 1963 South Pacific Games also saw some remarkable achievements and memorable moments:
• The youngest competitor, 13-year-old Fiji Swimmer Joan Herrington, and the oldest competitor, a 45-year-old Tongan table tennis player, exemplified the diverse age range of participants.
• The Games attracted 280 technical officials and 91 radio and press representatives, demonstrating the widespread interest and attention they garnered.
• Fiji's Merewai Turukawa etched her name in history by winning the Women's Shot Put, becoming the first gold medalist of the Games.
• The Games witnessed two bone fractures, one in boxing and the other in soccer.
• A total of 59,694 paying spectators filled the venues, generating gross takings of $19,080.
• The Games flag was symbolically passed to New Caledonia, foreshadowing the future of this remarkable event.
Mr. Lakhan said it was amazing to watch the Games grow to what it is now.
"Team Fiji back than had 187 athletes now we have 500 and more athletes taking part in more sports," he said.
Mr. Lakhan said the Pacific Games is the pinnacle for some athletes, most of whom will never get the opportunity to participate at a Commonwealth or Olympic Games.
"This is our Continental Games, and is also an opportunity for athletes from the Oceania to qualify for either the Olympic Games or Commonwealth Games as it is a recognized qualifying Games for certain sports," he said.
About Team Fiji
Team Fiji is a diverse and spirited team of athletes from across Fiji who compete at various prestigious sporting events, including the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Youth Games, and Pacific Games. FASANOC (Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee), founded in 1949, serves as the parent body of Team Fiji, playing a crucial role in protecting, supporting, and empowering Fiji's talented athletes on the global stage.
For more information about Team Fiji and its endeavors, please visit the FASANOC website.
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