Today marks 100 Days to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and New Zealand celebrated the milestone with a sunrise ceremony on one of New Zealand’s iconic Auckland beaches.
The 100th day sees athletes turn their focus to the remaining days ahead. For the 76 athletes from nine sports already selected to the team, this means specific games-time planning and preparation. For others, their attention must also remain on the race for final qualification and Olympic Team selection.
At Cheltenham Beach, Devonport with the silhouette of Auckland’s Rangitoto as the backdrop, the New Zealand team acknowledged the importance of the countdown with a haka to welcome the sun at 0656h followed by the handover of the team’s kakahu (cloak), Te Mahutonga from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Team to the New Zealand team to Rio 2016.
New Zealand Chef de Mission Rob Waddell took part in the ceremony, receiving the kakahu from Sochi 2014 flag bearer Shane Dobbin (speed skating Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014).
“This 100 day milestone is really significant for athletes and they are finalising the groundwork that will deliver their best results at Rio 2016,” he said.
“We are what we do repeatedly and right now our athletes will be living this mantra. They will be doing absolutely everything they can to be able to execute their performances at Rio 2016 with meticulous accuracy as well focusing on building the strength, endurance and speed that will be required for success on the world stage.
"Now, with 100 days to go, every moment matters.”
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith says that sunrise is a symbolic time of day for New Zealand athletes and the celebration of the 100 day milestone was an appropriate time to hand the kakahu on to its next guardians, the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio 2016.
“New Zealand, alongside its Pacific neighbours, is among the first in the world to welcome the sun and for athletes, early morning is a time to focus and prepare for the training and preparation the day will bring," she said.
"Te Mahutonga symbolises the determination, commitment and mana of all New Zealand athletes, and in particular our flag bearers who lead the team into the Olympic Stadium at each Olympic Opening Ceremony.
“This morning’s ceremony was an ideal time to hand the cloak from one team to the next.”
Ngai Tahu kuia and master weaver Ranui Ngarimu oversaw the weaving of Te Mahutonga ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, where the cloak was first worn, and was present for the kakahu handover ceremony this morning.
While 100 days marks a time of increasing focus for New Zealand athletes, organisers of the games in Rio are also ensuring they are ready for games time in just over three months’ time.
Waddell, who was in Rio in March, says he is confident Rio 2016 will be an exciting games for New Zealand athletes.
“The Rio Olympic Games will be ready for the New Zealand team this August. While we are monitoring a number of areas and no time is to be lost, we are looking forward to a great games. New Zealand athletes have taken part in a number of the 30 test events that have run smoothly and preparations are continuing to progress," he said.
Many New Zealand athletes and teams are now heading offshore for final preparations in the northern hemisphere before beginning to gather in Rio from the 24th of July.
The Olympic Games run from 5th August – 21st August 2016.
New Zealand is expecting its largest Olympic Team ever with a team of around 200.
About the New Zealand Olympic Team Kakahu – Te Mahutonga
The Kakahu ‘Te Mahutonga’ is a representation of leadership and spiritual protection worn by the Olympic flagbearer of New Zealand.
The late Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu bestowed the Kakahu to the New Zealand Olympic Committee in 2004. That same year, Beatrice Faumuina was the first to honor the privilege of wearing the Kakahu at the spiritual home of the Olympic Games in Athens.
Olympic Summer Games
To be gifted the Kakahu is an acknowledgement of the highest kind. Entirely woven by hand, the intricacy illustrates great respect for the material of the cloak. The spiritual essence contained in all living things and natural objects is acknowledged through rituals at every step.
Embodying the heart of the NZ Olympic Games Team, the Te Mahutonga empowers the status and mana of the wearer. When the Kakahu is draped over the shoulders of the flagbearer, a sense of unity is created for the team as they are lead into the Opening ceremony of the games. Powerful in its traditional value, the Kakahu ‘Te Mahutonga’ epitomizes the values of the New Zealand Olympic Team.