Father Gerard Weerakoon presents a souvenir to a Fiji delegate. Photo by Joachim Liu

SINGAPORE – Seated in the front pews in their blue azure shirts, they were undoubtedly outstanding.

A group of Youth Olympic Games (YOG) delegates from Fiji joined parishioners of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi for the 11.00am Mass on Aug 22.

The parish, located in Boon Lay, is the nearest to the Youth Olympic Village.

The Fiji team was given a rousing round of applause as they were introduced to the congregation. There were ten delegates in all, including five athletes who competed in swimming, athletics, judo and weightlifting. The other delegates were team officials led by the Chef de Mission, Glynis Miller.

Over brunch, the team mingled with some of the youth of the parish and the priests, Fathers John Lau and Gerard Weerakoon.

Also present at Mass were delegates from Gambia, reported the Young Olympian Daily, a newspaper published by Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication during the Games.

The newspaper reported Fiji team official Eugene Panuve as saying that as Fiji is a Christian country, “religion runs parallel to everything we do, whether it be work or play”.

“In this case, being sport, we find it just as important to come to church as to compete in the Games,” Mr Panuve was quoted as saying in the report published on Aug 25.

An informal poll taken by the newspaper found that half of the YOG athletes would pray the first thing in the morning after they wake up. These athletes were mostly from the Caribbean and African nations.

Fiji’s Ms Miller told Church of St. Francis of Assisi’s media team member Terence Tay that the delegation enjoyed their stay in Singapore and found the transportation and accommodation to be excellent. She added that they had no problems adapting to the weather and food here, as they were similar to Fiji’s.

They hope to return to Singapore in the future, she said.

Ms Miller added that although the Fiji team did not win any medals for at the YOG, the athletes managed to attain their goals of achieving their personal best at the games.

Father Gerard, who presented the delegates with a gift each before they left, described the meeting as a “nice encounter” and the delegates would remember their time at the parish.

By Darren Boon
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