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Cosgrove Speech At South Island Independence Games

Embargoed until 19 April 2008 Speech

Cosgrove officially opens the South Island Independence Games

Venue: QE 11 Stadium Christchurch
Time: 9am, 19 April 2008

I feel very privileged and proud to have this opportunity to open the South Island Independence Games here in Christchurch. To the young sportspeople here today, a special welcome.

The fact that this is the 18th anniversary for these Games makes this occasion even more special. What a fantastic effort from organisers, as well as our athletes.

As a Cantabrian, I am proud to say that Christchurch has shown great enterprise and enthusiasm when it comes to hosting games for our disabled athletes - the most recent being the 2006 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. We also look forward to the IPC (International Paralympics Committee) World Athletics Championships that are scheduled to run in Christchurch in 2011.

The South Island Independence Games provide the opportunity for disabled athletes to get involved in mainstream sporting activities and compete against others of a similar ability.

Like any major sporting event, the competition is tough, and exciting to watch.

I note that some of our top Kiwi sports are being held at these Games, in particular swimming, track and field events, and team triathlon. Everyone here today can be proud to be carrying on our great sporting tradition in these mainstream sports.

I want to acknowledge the enormous amount of work that has gone into preparing for these Games. I know the athletes have been training hard for many months – with support from their clubs, coaches, teams and families.

I know that means parents, teachers and supporters have also been working hard. I am sure this weekend is going to be a great event for you all. Whether you are working towards representing New Zealand in a Paralympics team one day or whether you are out to achieve a personal goal – I wish you all the best.

I believe nothing brings a community and a nation together quite like the love of sport. It is also a source of great enjoyment and excitement, it fosters healthy competition and provides us with common ground through shared goals and the pride we take in achievement. It is part of the cultural fabric of our nation.

As Minister for Sport and Recreation it is great to see organisations out there making sure that people get active and get involved. CCS Disability Action has been working to make this goal a reality for a long time - it has organised the Games here in the South Island since 1990. What a tremendous effort.

A special thanks to Jessie McIvor and Marcelle Rossiter from CCS Disability Action who have put a lot of effort into making today happen. And thanks too, to the other people and organisations that have supported the Games - either through practical support, such as Parafed Canterbury, the Halberg Trust’s Sports Opportunity Programme and Canterbury West Coast Sports Trust, or through sponsorship support.

It is also appropriate to remember and pay tribute to the late Graham Condon who we all remember with great affection as a friend and as a person who excelled at the highest level in disability sport. He was a Paralympian who was a successful track athlete and swimmer, as well as a huge supporter of events like this.

There are over 100 participants here today from eight regions around the South Island. The Games schedule over the next two days looks busy and demanding, and I am sure that among the young athletes here this morning there are some future New Zealand Paralympians.

It is now over to you, as it is time to get onto the track, into the pool or onto the field. You are all part of our great sporting nation and Kiwi sporting tradition. I wish all athletes every success for the Games. You have worked hard to get where you are today.

It is with great pleasure that I declare the South Island Independence Games for 2008 to be officially open.


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