World Masters Games 2017 lights up Eden Park with a colourful opening ceremony celebrating culture, competition and camaraderie in Auckland, New Zealand.
Let the Games begin. New Zealand has welcomed 28,000 participants to the World Masters Games 2017 filling Auckland’s Eden Park with a spine tingling Māori cultural performance, great Kiwi music and the biggest laser light show ever seen in the country.
On this calm autumn evening in New Zealand’s most celebrated sports venue, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English declared the world’s largest multi-sport event open heralding an action-packed 10 days for 25,000 athletes from 100 countries competing in 28 sporting disciplines.
Dancing lights, fire and drifting smoke, with the occasional burst of fireworks, brought the colours of the Pacific to life as waves of colour washed over the stadium, setting the scene for lyrical, high energy performances by some of New Zealand’s top Māori culture performers.
From the first solitary spiritual tones of the Māori karanga – as a lone female voice called the visitors into ‘our place’ – to Māori warriors rushing across the hallowed turf and the beautiful rhythm of Māori song, there was no doubt that this was a night to remember.
The parade of athletes was its own spectacle as thousands of competitors made their way down into the stadium, marching together grouped by sport rather than country in World Masters Games tradition.
With such a massive influx of visitors in town for the 10-day event, Auckland - New Zealand’s biggest city - is noticeably abuzz with activity in the downtown waterfront precincts.
The event has been four years in the planning and the aim is “to deliver the best World Masters Games in history,” says World Masters Games 2017 (WMG2017) chief executive Jennah Wootten.
“With 25,000 athletes competing in 28 sports across 48 venues it’s been a massive logistical challenge but we are ready and we couldn’t be more excited as we look forward to the next 10 days,” Ms Wootten said. “Bring it on!”
Around 75 per cent of participants hail from outside of the host city and the organisers have promised a warm welcome from locals who will have free admission as spectators to any of the 48 competition venues.
“Being great hosts and making visitors feel welcome is in our blood. It’s something the city did brilliantly during Rugby World Cup 2011 where visitors went home raving about their experiences in our city and country. I’m confident of a repeat performance,” Ms Wootten said.
On Auckland’s downtown waterfront, visitors and locals can mingle at the Queens Wharf Entertainment Hub which is open every day from Saturday 22 April with free admission to most activities.
“One of the unique attractions of World Masters Games is the social side of the event, and there is a great history of lifelong friendships being formed at previous Games,” Ms Wootten said. “As the host city in 2017, Auckland is embracing that tradition and laying on a feast of culture, performance, music and food on our waterfront.”
Highlights include Toi Ora, a living gallery, in The Cloud to showcase traditional Māori arts and culture. There will be music and entertainment day and night featuring well known New Zealand artists, the best of New Zealand’s cuisine and beverages, and a Kids’ Fun Zone.