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Horomia: handing 'Mahutonga' to 2005 Olympic Team

Hon Parekura Horomia
Minister of Mäori Affairs

14 December 2005 (12noon) Speech notes

NZ Olympic Committee handing over 'Mahutonga' from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Team to the 2005 Torino Winter Olympic Games Team

Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings

Mihi

It is great to be with you all today. My colleague Hon Trevor Mallard, Minister of Sport and Recreation and I are delighted to be co-hosting this special occasion.

To our Olympic athletes and officials who represented our country in 2004 at Athens, tēnā koutou.

The 2004 Olympics took the games home to their ancient birthplace and the city of their revival. Our team had 268 members (150 athletes and 118 officials), and competed in 18 sports.

I am proud to say that our team bought home three gold and two silver medals.

Five medals are a fantastic achievement for our athletes, the officials and our country, awesome!

Our country is proud of the Olympic teams and every athlete who has competed. Wherever they placed in their field, we are proud of them. Our athletes work incredibly hard to get to the stage of competing, and that in itself is a major achievement.

Over many years, for a relatively small country, our Olympic medallists have built a strong sporting reputation. New Zealand’s population is only a fifth of the population of greater New York City.

Accordingly international media often reports that ‘New Zealand punches well above its weight in the Olympic Games competition’.

Culture and sport share a strong symbiotic relationship. The strength of this relationship is clearly seen in the Olympic movement.

Early Greek culture celebrated this relationship – many people who watch the Olympics do not realise that the ancient Games brought together not just the best athletes to compete, but also sculptors, poets, writers, and speakers.

Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, recognised the value of art and culture alongside sport- after reviving the ancient Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, de Coubertin introduced art competitions.

These were held in 1912 at the Olympic Games in Stockholm and 1948 at the Olympic Games in London and they laid the foundation for the modern artistic programme of the Cultural Olympiad and the Cultural Olympic Games.

The Cultural Olympiad is a programme of events that takes place during the four years between successive Games and culminates in the Cultural Olympics. Together they celebrate the ‘spirit’ and the ‘arts’.

The result is a plethora of artistic, cultural and sporting exchanges. What an awesome backdrop for Kiwis to not only celebrate our own unique culture, but to do this on the world stage at the highest echelons of sport and culture, the Olympic Games.

For years we have looked to the silver fern, the haka, and the waiata in demonstrating our unique culture and showing our pride in our small nation.

No matter what your sport is, whether you are an athlete or an official, a team member or an individual competitor, when you wear the fern, hear that haka or song, you know where you come from.

It was an emotional and heart stopping moment when our medallists in Athens returned to the NZ Village - to a contingent of proud Kiwis performing a haka in welcome, celebration and respect.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has shown great leadership inspiring all our athletes and giving them an edge, a sense of belonging and a sense of pride.

By enveloping our team using Māori culture we help celebrate one of the underlying principles of the Olympic Games – cultural expression- and we bring our team together as a people and a nation as they head into the sporting arena.

I must make mention of the support of SPARC and Toi Māori Aotearoa in assisting to make this kaupapa a success. Their partnership with the New Zealand Olympic Committee has created a great opportunity to showcase our culture and provide our team with the inspiration to succeed.

The passing of Māhutonga from the summer team to the winter team is a celebration of who we are, our strengths as a country, our pride in our team, and our belief in each other.

What a beautiful way to portray leadership and excellence- the relationship we have as people of the fern is cemented with this taonga, drawn from the treasures of Tāne, God of the forests.

With Māhutonga and the Silver Fern on your chests, you will be well supported and primed for success at the 20th Winter Olympiad in Turin.

This will add strength to you all as you embark on what will be a tough campaign, and it will also add to continuing the vision of Pierre de Coubertin.

I wish you well and look forward to following your progress and celebrating your achievements as only Kiwis can do.

I acknowledge the Māori Advisory Committee and their work with our Olympic teams. I thank you for all the work that you have done with our teams to represent and express our cultural identity internationally.

Congratulations to the Olympic team representing Aotearoa at Torino next year. Just so you know we will be with you every step of the way, cheering you on, being your champions from afar.

As you know the event has begun. The Olympic Torch Relay started in Rome on the 8th of December. It travels for two months across national territory. And there will be celebrations in 600 communities throughout Italy until February 10, 2006. Then the last, mysterious, torchbearer will light the 20th Olympic Winter Games’ cauldron.

Five of our very own kiwis will bear the torch in the relay. These kiwis were nominated because they unite their communities in sport, education and culture.

The five torch bearers - Rosanna Blong, ice skater and coach; Elizabeth Matthews, curling coach; Tim Brown, retired Professor of Microbiology; Davi Jea, a multi-lingualist who works with refugees; and Mijo Wilson, an aspiring Olympic umpire. Congratulations to you all on behalf of the communities that you contribute to.

Referring to the emotion of the Torino 2006 Olympic Torch Relay, President Rogge said, “It is a thread of passion which will run through this country”. The President also spoke of the power that the Olympic flame has to unite people: “Whether male or female, young or old, able-bodied or disabled, high-level athlete or amateur, whether we live in a wealthy or a developing country, the flame unites us all.”

As athletes you represent New Zealand, yourselves, your families, your communities and all of those who have supported you over the years.

You are fantastic role models for other New Zealanders to reinforce our ‘can do’ attitude and push themselves a little harder – or even a lot harder to fulfil their potential.

I pass on to your care this kakahu - Te Māhutonga, this mauri stone gifted by Ngāi Tahu and this hei taonga to guide you on your way.

NZ Olympic Games team, thank you to all our athletes for your passion and commitment. Go well in the Games! We will be right there with you!

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawa nui.

Ka mutu


ENDS

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