The inaugural 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games opened this afternoon in front of over 1,000 spectators and the world’s media. A skydiver landing on the beach heralded the start of the opening, followed by 40 local school children arriving by jet boats across Lake Wakatipu, each carrying a flag of the 40 nations competing in the Games.
The rousing call of the putara (conch) called the crowds to attention for the start of the powhiri (welcome). The warriors of Kai Tahu Whanui issued a challenge to the visitors and placed a teka (dart) at the feet of Jean-Phillipe Roy of Canada who was representing the several hundred athletes present.
Governor-General Hon Sir Anand Satyanand officially opened the Games, highlighting the benefits and unique nature of this ground-breaking event, as well as it’s potential for the future. He talked about the vision of chairman Sir Eion Edgar, and CEO Arthur Klap had to produce this event and how it evolved through the collaboration with the Olympic committees of the Pacific Rim countries. With the athletes (800 participants) the most important part of the Games he also commented how perfectly timed the Games are, just six months out from the Winter Olympics, providing an ideal platform for those chasing their Olympic goals. Finally he said the beauty of the landscape, from the Southern Alps to the plains of the Maniototo to the coastal town of Dunedin was the final key to success, setting the Games in a league of their own.
At the media conference earlier in the day, top Canadian ski racer, Jean-Philippe Roy said the Games provided Northern Hemisphere athletes with a great opportunity of a big race start before the World Cup season began in the Northern Hemisphere. Jake Zamansky of the US Ski Team said it was very exciting to see the high level of profile the event had been receiving and said it was a huge benefit to get World Cup-like conditions on challenging hills during the Northern Hemisphere summer. Top New Zealand snowboarder, Juliane Bray, said she believed the halfpipe at Cardrona was one of the best in the world and she was delighted that New Zealand’s outstanding snow sports facilities and athletes were being profiled to a global audience.
The sporting events of the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games open tomorrow Saturday 22 August at The Remarkables with the freeski slopestyle and continues through the week with snowboarding, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, freeskiing curling, ice hockey, figure skating, winter triathlon and natural luge. The competition takes place throughout Otago from the coastal town of Dunedin, to the plains of the Maniototo to the towns of Queenstown and Lake Wanaka, high in the Southern Alps.
Highlights will include the LG Snowboard FIS World Cup Halfpipe on Wednesday 26 August and the Big Air Closing Ceremony on Sunday 30 August that will broadcast live on Sky TV with a grand finale of fireworks and spectacular aerials and a closing by New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key.
Video: Interview with Arthur Klap, CEO Winter Games NZ