SUVA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Fijians gathered at their national stadium in the capital of Suva on Monday, a special public holiday announced in honor of Fijian men's rugby sevens team's gold medal triumph earlier this month at the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

Spearheaded by police and military bands, the rugby heroes, onboard a vehicle, led a float procession from downtown Suva to the stadium, extensively greeted by cheering crowds that lined up the streets while waving Fiji's national flags despite showers.

In recognition of their contribution, Fijian President Jioji Konrote, who serves as Fiji's chancellor of the order, awarded each member of the Olympic champion rugby team an Officer of the Order of Fiji medal, except Ben Ryan, the team's British coach who got a Companion of the Order of Fiji medal, the highest category in the Pacific island nation's system of honors.

The Fijian president also announced that the government will award each of the rugby team players 30,000 Fiji dollars (14,700 U.S. dollars) as a gesture of appreciation on behalf of all Fijians for their ""tremendous achievement.""

""We have never been more united than we are today - one nation, one people celebrating a milestone in our development as a nation,"" Konrote said, adding that the rugby heroes have brought Fijians honor and more global attention than at any other time in Fiji's history.

""With this Olympic win, our gallant and victorious warriors have transformed Fiji into a global superpower in sevens rugby. We are now world champions and the team to beat,"" the Fijian president said.

Thr president's words were echoed by the country's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

""Precisely 60 years after Fiji first went to the Olympic Games in Melbourne (Australia) in pursuit of gold, silver and bronze, we have finally done it. And it is gold - a shower of gold as the president described it, glittering as bright as the Pacific sun,"" Bainimarama said.

""The really exciting thing about this victory in Rio is that we have suddenly been given a huge boost, a much greater international profile. More people around the world are coming to appreciate the Fijian story. More people are looking at Fiji as a place to visit, a place to invest,"" Bainimarama said, reiterating Fiji's ambition to be a beacon for its Pacific island neighbors.

During the celebrations at the national stadium, a replay of the Fijian rugby team's gold medal winning game was shown on a giant screen, prompting a cheering spree.

Viliame Ledua, a local resident, said he is proud of the Olympic gold medal and he feels proud to be a Fijian.

""There has never a time that Fiji has won a gold from Olympics and this is one of the times that Fiji won a gold from Olympics. It's a great day and great moment for Fiji and we are all so excited and we are so happy to be here today,"" Ledua told Xinhua as he watched the replay.


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