As the World Sevens Series arrives at Twickenham this weekend, we are shining a spotlight on these unusual Fijian banknotes in our collection. Issued in 2017, they commemorate Fiji's gold medal in Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games.
From The Vaults
The world's first circulating seven-dollar banknote was issued to commemorate the victory of the Fiji men's rugby sevens team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Two million notes were issued the following year. Each note has a seven-digit serial number with a two-letter prefix - AU - the chemical symbol for gold.
One side of the note shows team captain and Olympic flag bearer Osea Kolinisau running with a ball, alongside a smaller image of the head coach, Ben Ryan, sitting at Sigatoka Sand Dunes in Fiji. This image of the head coach also appears on a commemorative 50-cent coin.
The reverse of the note features a photograph of the squad, with their gold medals around their necks. The medals fluoresce a golden colour under ultraviolet light. The watermark image depicts Savenaca Rawaca running with a ball.
Rugby Sevens featured for the first time at a Summer Olympics in 2016. The fifteen-a-side version had been played in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924, but the event struggled to attract many teams and, having gained a poor reputation following a particularly violent match in Paris in 1924, it was dropped from the Games. There were several bids to reintroduce rugby over the years and, in 2009, it was announced that Rugby Sevens would make its debut at Rio in 2016.
Ben Ryan became coach of the Fiji Sevens team in 2013, having previously been the England Sevens coach. He coached Fiji to a World Series title in the 2014-15 season, ensuring their qualification for the Olympic tournament.
They defended their World Series title in 2015-16, being crowned champions a few months before the start of the Games. The Rugby Sevens tournament was held over six days at Deodoro Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Fiji finished top of their pool, then defeated New Zealand and Japan in the knockout stages to set up a final against Great Britain. It was an emphatic victory for Fiji, 43-7.
Having made their debut at the 1956 Olympic Games, this was Fiji's first Olympic medal of any colour, in any event. A nationwide public holiday was declared to celebrate the win. Each member of the team was awarded the honorary title Officer of the Order of Fiji and Ben Ryan was awarded the Companion of the Order of Fiji - the country's highest honour.
Gareth Baber took over coaching duties in 2016 and Fiji successfully defended their title at the Tokyo Olympics, defeating New Zealand 27-12 in the final. The Fiji women's team won the bronze medal and another seven-dollar banknote was issued to celebrate the achievements of both teams.
From The Vaults Podcast
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Listen to our episode with Ben Ryan, recorded in early 2020, where we sit down with the former England and Fiji Sevens coach to talk about his life in rugby.
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