A blazer was gifted to FASANOC to mark 60 years since the first South Pacific Games ©FASANOC

Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) President Makarita Lenoa has been presented with a commemorative blazer to mark the 60th anniversary of the inaugural South Pacific Games.

Lenoa accepted the blazer which was worn by gold medal-winning tennis player Rahim Zullah at the event in Suva, Fiji's capital, in 1963.

It was presented by Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan who spoke of how the event came about.

It started life as the South Pacific Games and was thought up by Dr Abdul Habib Sahu Khan, who was one of Fiji's representatives at a meeting of the South Pacific Commission in 1959.

"The idea gained momentum and was embraced by the South Pacific Commission," said Lakhan.

"In a collaborative effort, nine territories convened in Noumea in March 1961, unanimously awarding Fiji the honour of hosting the first Games.

"The Fiji lawn tennis team consisted of ten athletes including the recently departed Satyanand who was Fiji's High Commissioner to New Zealand.

"The blazer belonged to team-mate Rahim Zullah who kept his blazer and now resides in Brisbane, Australia.

"It is my pleasure to invite the President of FASANOC to receive this blazer kindly donated by Rahim."

The inaugural South Pacific Games saw more than 770 athletes and officials from 13 nations participate, with Fiji represented by the largest team of 187.

Since then, Fiji has staged it on two more occasions in 1979 and 2003.

Lakhan maintains the importance of the Pacific Games to the region's athletes who may not get the chance to go to the Olympics.

"This is our continental Games and is also an opportunity for athletes from the Oceania to qualify for either the Olympic Games or Commonwealth Games as it is a recognised qualifying Games for certain sports," he said.

The 17th edition is due to take place later this year, with the Solomon Islands scheduled to host for the first time from November 19 to December 2.