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Support the game that brings out the best in our students!

Peni Komaisavai
Thursday, April 20, 2017

It goes without saying from humble beginnings comes great things and this rings true for what could be described as the most anticipated Fiji secondary school Sporting event of the year that is the Coca-Cola Games.

What is said to be the biggest ever school athletics meet in the Pacific for secondary schools started off with just a handful of government schools back in the early 60s under the guidance of well-known sports commentator Graham Eden.

Eden now regarded as the voice of rugby had the vision to hold these events while he was teaching in Suva Grammar School (SGS).

Back then the games were not called the Coca-Cola Games it was just a competition between five government schools.

According to the Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Association the five government schools were Queen Victoria School (QVS), Adi Cakobau School (ACS), Ratu Kadavulevu School (RKS), Natabua High School and SGS.

These five schools usually rotated in hosting the event so one could easily compare the humble beginnings of the games the size of a modern day athletics zone meet.

As the years went by the games grew in terms of participation of schools and in popularity and adopted the name Fiji Secondary Schools Amateur Athletics Association.

This all took place in the early 70s, under new management that came in the form of Brian Whiteman who succeeded Eden after he left SGS.

The formulation of the new name and the association did not take place straight after Whiteman's succession but later when he joined the Ministry of Education.

And as the years wore on the popularity of the game found its momentum as more and more schools showed interest and joined the ranks of the government schools.

With these new inclusions, Fiji began to realise the potential of grooming these young talents to represent Fiji in international tournaments like the South Pacific Games. This in turn had a ripple effect on the other schools that were not yet in the mix of the games, it challenged them to commit their students to compete in the games.

The games grew and by the mid 70s adopted a new name called the Jucy Games later changed in 1985 to what is now known as the Coca-Cola Games.

As one would now be aware the make-up of the games changed as the years went on, with these changes it brought about tough competitions and more identifications and exposure of talents on the grand national stage.

What began as five schools became an association of nine zones which included the Tailevu and Ovalau Zone, Suva 1, Suva 2, Lautoka, Ba, Ra, Nadi, Maritime, Triple N and Northern Zones respectively.

And from these nine zones the number of zones doubled to what is now 18 zones.

From humble beginnings of five schools the games now encompasses 165 schools nationwide competing in the games on a yearly basis.

Now in the modern day, from the simple things of athletes being awarded medals instead of certificates for their achievements, hand timing to photo finishing, to securing what could very well be the longest standing sponsorship partnership in history with the Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji Ltd from the 70s until now.

But the main characteristic change in the games is the number of athletes participating from a handful of students to close to 3000 athletes competing today.

Coca-Cola Games heads into new era

In the words of Damodar Group of Companies chief executive officer Div Damodar, "Every year we want to take it up as we see the games getting bigger and bigger.

The games have not only become a selection ground for athletics but for other sports as well like rugby, soccer, volleyball and other major sports. But more importantly it has also attracted a lot of sponsorships from major companies who not only help and assist in the development and running of the games but more importantly in its promotion.

With the promotion of the games spreading through the media and various social networks like wild fire, its popularity increases.

This in turn presents opportunities for not only the athletes but for their schools and sponsors as well.

"We are very proud to be in association with the organisation and our actual motto is to promote youth empowerment to ensure youths progress with an opportunity in sports, the opportunity in taking themselves to another level and not only just in Fiji but in international sports such as our fine 7s teams or even to the Olympics where one day we will see a medal come in athletics and we look forward to that and it all starts with the Coke Games," Damodar said.

Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji Ltd marketing manager Lawrence Tikaram also made complimentary and similar statements regarding the games.

"It is by far the biggest expression of Fijian athletes' interaction; it is by far our biggest commitment in terms of engaging and inspiring others in active lifestyles and it is by far Fiji's biggest event and we want the parents to come on down and support students," Tikaram said.

Also he adds, "We sponsor the games hopefully knowing that the students will continuously inspire us into active lifestyles, that is the beauty of the Coca-Cola Games and we all understand that we need to be moving and active and the Coca-Cola Games provides that platform not only for the athletes but also for the parents and us supporters for the old boys and old girls to come out in full force and support the students in their preparation for the games which will be a highlight in the next few days."








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