Fiji is bracing for the celebration of a lifetime as the island nation awaits the return of its victorious sevens team after winning gold at the Rio Olympics.
It is the country’s first gold medal ever, which the sevens team secured after thumping Great Britain 43–7 in the final.
But before the party proper in the capital Suva, the western division will get the first chance to welcome the heroes as they arrive in Nadi on Sunday, August 21.
For Fijians in the west who might be thinking that they would be left out of the celebrations if everything would be done in the Capital City, Sports Minister Tuitubou confirmed that they had a programme planned for them.
"With all to be confirmed tomorrow, yes, we have something for the west, celebrations in the west could be held at Prince Charles Park on Sunday when the team arrives," Tuitubou said.
The final programme for the celebrations on Monday, August 22, for the Fiji men's 7s team gold medal win should be finalised soon.
Tuitubou said they were still making changes to the programme to welcome Fiji's golden boys.
But the golden Olympic medal public holiday and the official celebration in Suva would be held on Monday.
This is all in the tentative programme to see the smooth transferring of Fiji's heroes otherwise they would have to go through another 10 hours’ drive in a usual three-hour drive to get to Suva as was the case in Ben Ryan's first HSBC World Rugby 7s series win in the 2014–15 series.
Fiji’s sevens Olympic gold medal performance won praise from all over the world for the clinical manner in which they demolished all their opponents, including nemesis New Zealand, to emerge victors.
Sports commentators labelled it “Fiji playing sevens at its best, and the way it should be played”.
Meanwhile, the end of Englishman Ben Ryan's term as the Fiji 7s coach is fast catching on the heels of the gold medal triumph.
Now as Fijians await him on Sunday for a nationwide celebration on Monday to thank him and the players, there's headache and heartache already brewing as his three-year term as Fiji's mentor comes to an end.
He is the talk of the world and overseas cheque books are open to get his service as his value as coach shot sky high after Fiji became the first gold medal winner of Olympics rugby.
Among those rewriting the equation to try and keep Ryan here is Fiji National Sports Commission chairman Peter Mazey.
He said there could be a way to retain Ryan.
"It is Ben's (Ryan) decision at the end of the day," he said.
Ryan's contract expires on September 3, and he's not of a mind to renew it amidst his revelation that Fiji and its people helped restore his fire—on a personal and professional level—when England left him disillusioned after being their longest serving 7s coach from 2007 to 2013.
Whether his next step is Super Rugby, England's Premiership in a top club such as Bath, or another job on the 7s scene, it was clear that our tiny nation had made him and his wife Natalie happy in the three years.
"I came to Fiji and I just got back to basics again. I stripped away all the other stuff that sometimes comes with these programmes, too many people, too many layers — I have simple leadership, we have a very simple framework of what we do. We set simple standards, everybody knows what's going on, there's no politics around our group of players or our management — and it works."
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