What else did we expect?
This is Suva and prophecies spread like wildfire, but this being Suva it also had to rain on the public holiday the government declared especially to honour our Fiji Mens 7s Team for creating history and well you know the rest.
Yesterday was perfect, but when I instinctively looked outside my window shortly after 6AM this morning, it was overcast and my immediate fear was that it would rain and dampen our celebration.
Wind the clock back a day and I had met a newcomer to Fiji, well Suva to be exact, Steven from St. Lucia in the Caribbean, who has been here 19 days and up until Sunday he had not seen the sun in Fiji. I hope Steven got out and about yesterday.
So shortly after 9AM this morning we drove through Suva only to confirm my worst fears; apart from a few hundred people strung out from the Suva Flea Market to Tappoo City, the residents of greater Suva had stayed away, put off by the threat of rain again after the deluge that swamped our annual rain festival – Hibiscus, just the week before.
Mine was the only car in lower Gordon Street, so I parked just outside the shop of Team Fiji uniform sponsor, BLK – who must be making a killing.
Four Policemen were on duty at the junction with Victoria Parade and only one other man had decided this was as good a spot as any to watch Ben Ryan and Team go by on their way to ANZ Stadium for a celebration hosted by His Excellency, President Konrote.
I crossed the road to the old FINTEL building and claimed my spot under the cover of a frangipani tree.
Excitement built as several official vehicles sped by towards the Grand Pacific Hotel where the team was staying. All the while a trickle of people, mainly decked out in sky blue, streamed by in both directions, proudly waving Fiji flags.
There was an elderly i-taukei man with no shoes, a young Sikh wearing a turban, a bunch of Chinese men chattering loudly, a vulagi Mother with a young boy; all proud Fijians out to celebrate a special day.
That’s when he walked past me; the man with the steel grey hard-shell case in his right hand with “Phantom” embossed across the outside.
Raised on a never-ending supply of the ghost who walks comics in the 1970s, it immediately caught my eye, arousing a hint of suspicion – did this Phantom have something to do with the prophecy everyone was whispering about?
Should I alert the four Policemen?
I decided to give the man with the Phantom case the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was just taking his collection of comics in their special Phantom case to the Grand Pacific Hotel to give one to Ben Ryan and one each to Osea Kolinisau and the boys.
Shortly before the designated starting time of 9.30AM a Police vehicle with sirens wailing and all lights ablaze, accompanied by two Police motorcyclists riding shotgun, came charging towards us from the direction of the grand old lady.
Two white minivans packed full of men in blue Bula shirts went flying by – was that Ben Ryan and the Fiji 7s Team? I waved as they sped past and took comfort in that they would be back soon, passing by in the other direction at a much gentler pace.
Then the man with the Phantom case came scurrying by, heading in the direction of the white minivans carrying Ben Ryan, Osea Kolinisau and the boys.
What was he up to? Should I alert the four Policemen?
Before I could decide what to do the Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho pulled up, across the street, resplendent in blue; his men snapping to attention. I waived and he waived back. His presence in uniform on the street gave me a sense of calm.
I gave the man with the Phantom case the benefit of the doubt again as he continued walking away, lucky for him today was a special day.
Distracted by him, I hadn’t noticed the street around me filling up. People from all walks of life, young and old had come out to cheer their team – the people’s team.
Before I knew it they were upon us, up high on the back of a truck seemingly rolling over me, carried by a human tidal wave of Fiji rugby 7s fans, followed by a convoy of support vehicles from our local radio stations pumping out music Jamaican style that Usain Bolt would have been proud of and dancing to.
I looked up and caught Captain Osea’s eye, he gave a special wave just for me and that was me done; I had a piece of the team in my heart. Vinaka Osea.
My next stop was the roundabout at Holy Trinity Anglican School where a heavily intoxicated man gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek mumbling thanks for our Rio Gold medal as if I had played a part. I shook his hand, smiled and politely moved on.
I positioned myself next to a priest from the Hare Krishna Temple across the road and waited for the Fiji 7s Team again.
They appeared soon enough and once again they seemed to be surfing on an even bigger wave of humanity this time. Thousands more people had mushroomed along the way and joined the throng cheering, singing and dancing in delight as they carried the Fiji Mens 7s Team to their final destination.
Then he spotted me in the crowd, standing back from the footpath as men, women and children, young and old surged on by; Chris Cracknell waived excitedly then tapped Ben Ryan on his shoulder while pointing me out.
We waived to each other, Ben Ryan raising both fists high in their air in victory signalling; we did it, we won the Rio Olympic Games Gold Medal for Mens rugby 7s.
Then Ben Ryan did something amazing; he thumped his clenched fist to his heart and blew me a kiss as the float rolled away.
What a public display of friendship and appreciation. I was conscious of the people around me all of a sudden, turned quickly and walked away, tears welling up again. Vinaka Ben.
A block away from the parade, Suva was eerily empty; people were either lining the streets cheering on the parade, or locked in their homes taking it all in on TV.
I sped across town to get ahead of the parade again; this time at the highest point on Ratu Sukuna Road, with what would be a good view of the Fiji 7s Team parade coming up the hill from Yat Sen School and there he was down on one knee with his Phantom case on the ground, right beside a Fiji Electricity Authority substation.
What was the man with the Phantom case doing now?
I looked around, there were no Policemen in sight, only the Fiji Military Forces guards at Army Commander Naupoto’s residence a hundred metres away. My fastest time for the 100M was 11 seconds, but with my wobbly old left knee now I’d struggle to do it in – damn where was Usain Bolt when you needed him?
I had to cover this one myself without back-up, so I slipped between two parked cars for a closer look at the suspect. After a quick glance over his left shoulder he punched in his personal security code, clicked open the case locks and lifted the top half.
I could feel my heart pounding against my chest – what would Jason Bourne do?
Then he lifted it out – a white drone the size of a large dinner plate, with what looked like a Go Pro camera fitted below.
People cheered and waved skywards as the drone belonging to the man with the Phantom Case hovered above the Fiji Men’s Rio gold medal parade.
By Culden Kamea