E kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
It is a great pleasure for David and me to welcome you all to Government House today. The Opening Ceremony of the World Masters Games 2017 is only hours away and the excitement is building. I would especially like to welcome the representatives of the International Masters Games Association. Haere mai – welcome to New Zealand.
This is the first time New Zealand has hosted the games. What better place to welcome athletes and supporters from around than world than our largest, most diverse city. I’m sure Auckland will be an admirable host city, giving our visitors wonderful memories to take away with them.
We New Zealanders consider ourselves a sports loving nation. If we’re not playing sport, we’re actively following the players and teams we have an emotional connection with. Over the next 10 days, our attention will focus on the action from the World Masters Games – the highs, the lows, the famous names and the not-so-famous names who will join together to demonstrate that age is meaningless - it’s what you do that matters. A case in point would be the Games’ oldest athlete 101-year-old Man Kaur, who only took up athletics at the age of 93.
The figures speak for themselves – close to 25,000 athletes from over 100 countries have chosen to participate in these games. Each of them will have their own story to tell of their journey to the World Masters Games – the discipline and commitment required for training, the financial outlay necessary to get to Auckland and the aims and goals they have set for themselves.
We should acknowledge that alongside the serious sporting endeavour, there’s also very enjoyable social side to the World Masters Games. Not everyone wants a podium finish and for some it’s the participation that’s paramount.
Former Australian Olympic kayaker and Masters Games participant Lynda Lehmann summed that ethos up nicely when she said “If you have a good team, a good spirit and a good attitude, and have a good go, that’s good enough.”
That’s one of the great things about the World Masters Games. Elite athletes and weekend warriors compete alongside each other, not for national pride, not for financial gain but for the sheer love of sport and joy of taking part. That’s truly something worth recognising.
Tonight’s Opening Ceremony will be a moment of celebration for the athletes and supporters and also for the people responsible for getting the event off the ground. The long period spent planning, co-ordinating, creating, communicating and developing will finally result in a tangible offering – a world-class event staged over 10 days and utilising 48 competition venues.
I acknowledge the incredible amount of work required to bring an event like this to fruition. Congratulations to the Local Organising Committee, the Board of Directors and the Executive team. I know not all the people involved can be here today – the organising is still underway after all – but your efforts will result in something special and memorable for participants and spectators alike and give New Zealanders something to be proud of.
I’d also like to acknowledge the role played by the World Masters Games Ambassadors. I see quite a few of you here today – indeed the view from here is a bit like a Who’s Who of New Zealand sport. Thank you for your support for this event and for being great role models. I wish those of you who are competing all the best for your events. I hope the competition is fair, enjoyable and memorable.
Good luck to everyone involved in the World Masters Games 2017. I wish you every success and look forward to following the Games progress over the next 10 days.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.