New Zealand women’s rugby sevens player Sarah Hirini, Te Pou Hapai Wahine (female flagbearer), and men’s rower Hamish Bond, Te Pou Hapai Tane (male flagbearer), are preparing to lead the New Zealand Team into the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The athletes will each wear a beautiful kakahu (cloak) as a symbol of their mana as they lead the team into Japan's National Stadium. The athletes will also wear a pounamu pendant that accompanies each kakahu.
It will be the first time a male and female athlete have jointly carried the New Zealand flag at an Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, with a change in Games rules allowing for the naming of both a male and a female flagbearer.
Bond and Hirini will carry a single New Zealand flag between them as they take part in the parade of nations. They will each be wearing a classic black blazer featuring the silver fern and a message embroidered inside the blazer that reads:
“We have been wearing the silver fern for 100 years. At the Tokyo Olympic games we come together to honour this legacy, and share in its future. We are the New Zealand Team, 1920 – 2020, Ko Tatau te Kapa o Aotearoa.”
They will be joined by New Zealand Team members including Chef de Mission Rob Waddell, surfers Billy Stairmand and Ella Williams, canoe slalom athlete Callum Gilbert, diver Anton Down Jenkins,
boxer David Nyika, tennis players Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus, taekwondo athlete Tom Burns and team support members.
Waddell says marching in an Opening Ceremony is something you never forget.
“It’s always hugely special to march in the Opening Ceremony and these athletes will be extremely proud to walk under that New Zealand flag,” said Waddell.
“Sarah and Hamish were chosen to carry the flag as they are outstanding athletes and are leaders off the field of play. They’re real role models and we look forward to seeing them lead our team this evening."
Waddell added that the New Zealand Team is settling in well to the village and enjoying the Olympic environment.
“We’ve been really pleased with what we’ve experienced so far.
“There’s a fantastic buzz in the village, especially in our New Zealand Team area and we’re really looking forward to getting into further competition and showing the world what we’re made of.”
The 129th nation of 206 to enter the Tokyo Stadium, the New Zealand Team will be preceded by Niger and followed by Nepal, alphabetically according to the Japanese alphabet.
The New Zealand Team will depart for the Olympic Stadium at 6pm in buses carrying a maximum of 30 passengers each, allowing social distancing. The parade will also take place according to strict Covid-19 protocols and athletes will be wearing masks.
While spectators will not be in Tokyo Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, the showcase event is expected to be a spectacular demonstration of Japanese art, music and culture.
New Zealand will be represented by 211 athletes in Tokyo. The team will be made up of 101 females and 110 males with athletes set to compete in more than 700 competition sessions across 22 sports, including the new Olympic disciplines of karate and surfing.