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'Olympic Games Of Singing' Hoped To Be Drawcard For Auckland Tourism

Melanie Earley, Senior journalist

An international singing competition, the World Choir Games, will begin in Auckland this week, with more than 11,000 singers from over 40 countries set to compete.

The mammoth event will span 10 days in Auckland, with a grand opening and closing ceremony at Spark Arena on 10 and 20 July, with four award ceremonies, nine celebration concerts, 15 workshops and a vibrant Parade of Nations across Quay Street.

World Choir Games director John Rosser said this marked the first time the competition, which is in its 13th year, had been held in Oceania and only the second time it had been in the Southern Hemisphere.

"The closest it had been to New Zealand before this was when it was held in China, some 8000 kilometres away".

Contestants will be competing in two sections - Open and Champions - each of which is comprised of 28 categories.

A panel of 36 international jurors will be carefully assessing the performances to award prizes.

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Minister for Economic Development Melissa Lee said having the event in Auckland was part of the government's commitment to "rebuilding the economy and supporting our arts and culture sector".

"We want to make it clear that it's not just sporting events New Zealand is interested in and we want to tell the world we are a singing nation."

So many visitors in the central city would benefit hospitality and toursim in the area, Lee said, and visitors would be looking around to see what the country could actually offer.

"These are added economic benefits for us along with the music. It will be a feast of music and culture in Auckland.

"This will show the world New Zealand is able to host these kinds of international events."

The event was expected to generate over $10 million in GDP during a traditionally quiet month for Tāmaki Makaurau.

Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpson agreed the event would help put Auckland on the world stage.

"This will be the first time in New Zealand for a lot of people - we're right at the bottom of the globe so it's a big ask for people to come down here."

Simpson said the fact such a "high level event" had been put together had encouraged people to make the trip.

"For me, this is not just an event that has strong forecasted economic benefits, but a celebration of diverse musical traditions.

"I'm stoked - it's the Olympic games of singing. I come from a musical family myself and have pulled together an Auckland Council choir that I'll be conducting, it's been fun putting it together."

The council's own choir will perform before the grand opening ceremony and again on 16 July at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Simpson urged the public to come along to some of the events which she said would see high-level competitors performing but also conducting workshops and "friendship concerts", which would be free for anyone to enjoy.

"These events bring a nice, high-energy back into the city."

Hundreds of staff and about 350 volunteers - who speak 41 languages among them - are on board to support the many international visitors coming to the city.

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