Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Hon Dr Pita R Sharples
Minister of Māori Affairs Speech
Olympic Cultural Event
Tuesday 19th June 2012
Te Puni Kokiri,
Mike Stanley (NZOC President)
Kereyn Smith (General Secretary NZOC)
Trevor Shailer (NZOC)
Dave Currie (Chef de Mission)
Pania Tyson Nathan
The day after last year’s Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony the editor of the Telegraph Newspaper in London wrote:
“How the coordinator of London’s 2012 Olympics must envy New Zealand’s cultural coherence … the haka is one of the grand sights of world sport and at the heart of the whole opening ceremony.”
“What New Zealand has is something of huge worth: a defining cultural pivot around which the whole event could spin.”
When the eyes of the world were on us last year, we stood with pride, and we stood with pride together. We told the world who we are, through our culture, our athletes, our artists, our businesses, our fanatical sporting spirit and most potently: through our people.
Kiwis up and down the country welcomed the world to our marae, towns and cities. New Zealanders – Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Asian, Kiwi – stood as one people. This was not missed by our visitors who were quite simply, blown away. Last year, New Zealand welcomed the world not just to our country: we welcomed the world to our towns and our homes. The integrity of this was not lost on even the most cynical sports journalists and writers.
When millions tuned in to see what little old New Zealand could come up with in terms of opening ceremonies: we blew them away again. We told our story with spine tingling effect. Manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga were integral to the success of the tournament.
More importantly, last year, as New Zealanders we discovered something about ourselves. We realised that New Zealand indigenous Māori culture was not something that divided us, it was something that brought our entire nation together as we hosted the biggest event in the history of our people.
Our heritage, our courage, our culture, our ability to unite – many peoples as one: this is our unique edge we have over the rest of the world. This is who we are. This is what a New Zealander is.
It is something many of our nation’s top athletes already know. Some of you are here tonight.
Our athletes know that traditions like haka and karakia prepare and focus us on the challenges ahead. These traditions unite us and link us back to our people and our homeland. This is exactly what haka and karakia were designed for.
It is also something our soldiers know all too well. During World War Two the Māori Battalion gained a fearsome reputation amongst Allied and German forces. Enemy commanders were known to say if they had the Māori Battalion: they would have conquered the world. Performing karakia and haka before battle not only terrified enemy soldiers but it also gave our men a unique edge as they went to war thousands of miles from home.
This month we celebrate Matariki, our Māori New Year. Traditionally a time of new life, a time to plant new crops, Matariki was also a time when our peoples came together to strengthen whānau bonds: often competing against one another in our traditional sports. Matariki is an auspicious time for our athletes to be heading to London.
Tonight we also honour two outstanding New Zealand athletes who hail from Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka A Maui: Hoani MacDonald and Lawrence Jackson from the Picton Rowing Club who competed in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Hoani carried our flag back then, and I would like to welcome the whānau of both men who are here tonight.
Eight years ago, the late Dame Te Atairangikaahu presented the precious Te Mahutonga cloak to the NZ Olympic Committee and then Te Rūnanga O Ngāi Tahu presented pounamu taonga – a pendant and the mauri stone. Since then our athletes have had our most precious taonga at their side, protecting them, giving them strength and carrying the aroha of a nation. I would like to congratulate the NZ Olympic Committee for initiating this tradition.
At this point, I would also like to pay tribute to my whanaunga Hinewehi Mohi. Her courage to sing our anthem in Māori at Twickenham in 1999 was a defining moment in race relations in our country. Thirteen years later? The Māori language has outlived its critics. The sky has not fallen in. Outrage lives on in only the most extremist pockets of our communities. But in our schools, our children know their anthem in the official languages of their nation. And for that, I thank you Hinewehi. I have to say for someone who says she isn’t an activist: she’s a pretty good one! I would also like to thank NZ Māori Tourism for initiating a move to promote our Kia ora greeting throughout our Olympic campaign this year.
Tonight’s theme is Celebrating our Culture through Sport. During the Rugby World Cup last year, Te Puni Kōkiri was at the forefront of work to celebrate Māori culture throughout that exciting event. This year I am proud to see the NZ Olympic Committee and NZ Māori Tourism carrying this on.
Our heritage, our courage, our culture, our ability to unite – many peoples as one: this is our unique edge we have over the rest of the world. It’s not something we need to invent or discover: it’s embedded within all of us and is what makes us New Zealanders.
Our unique identity as New Zealanders – Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Asian, Kiwi – who we are and the traditions that bind us together and connect us all back home to Aotearoa.
Finally I would like our athletes to know that even though they will be thousands of miles away: they need only look to London’s night sky and Matariki, the eyes of Tāwhirimatea will be watching over them. I hope like our ancestors they will use them for inspiration and guidance as they embark on their Olympic journeys.
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