Suva: Fiji's gold-medal-winning sevens rugby team received a tumultuous heroes' welcome when they returned home from Rio on Sunday to launch two days of celebrations.
The players, wearing their gold medals round their necks, were introduced to the ecstatic crowd as "the greatest rugby sevens team in the world".
Fiji's 43-7 trouncing of Great Britain in the sevens final at Rio delivered the South Pacific island nation its first ever Olympic medal.
"We won not because the boys were carrying the hopes of Fiji on their shoulders, but because the boys were on the shoulders of every Fijian," coach Ben Ryan declared.
Captain Osea Kolinisau found the outpouring of emotion overwhelming, telling journalists: "We knew it was going to be crazy but not this crazy."
The team received a standing ovation when they arrived at Prince Charles Park, as the crowd packed into the 18,000 capacity stadium clapped, danced and sang.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said it was a moment to be cherished forever.
"As a nation we may be small but we are strong," he said.
"We have limited resources but we are determined and unbeatable especially when we play effectively as a team."
Bainimarama said Fiji's golden victory made the country, with a population of less than one million, the centre of the world on the day of the Olympic final when more people searched for Fiji on the Internet than any other subject.
"The win has inspired people from around the world," Bainimarama said.
The team later boarded a flight from Nadi to Suva ahead of a full day of celebrations on Monday, which has been declared a national holiday.
First Published On : Aug 21, 2016 16:01 IST