Regional | Kaumātua Olympics

Kaumātua olympics organiser overwhelmed by numbers for 2023 event

Source: Te Arawa Kaumātua Olympics / Facebook

By Roimata Mihinui, Rotorua Daily Post

Our senior athletes, including some in their 90s, are counting down to the Te Arawa Kaumātua Olympics at the Rotorua Events Centre next Friday.

Organiser Dr Laurie Morrison (Ngāti Whakaue) said the response was almost overwhelming with 38 teams making the deadline. She had anticipated that Cyclone Gabrielle would affect entries.

The inaugural Te Arawa Kaumātua Olympics was held in 2019.

“In 2019 we had 23 teams and thought the turnout was amazing,” said Laurie.

“This year we have been overwhelmed with the number of teams who have registered — 38 teams most with 10 members are participating.

“We anticipated that with the effects of Gabrielle we would be lucky to get 20 teams. It was hard to say no to the nine teams who missed the deadline.

“We simply couldn’t extend our kaimahi and having to tell our roopu that they couldn’t enter a team was disappointing for them. We had to prioritise the needs of our manuhiri and they understood. We are so lucky to have such an awesome roopu.”

Laurie and her crew first participated in the 2018 Kaumātua Olympics hosted by Rauawaawa Charitable Trust and Rototuna High School students in Waikato.

They saw the kaumātua-friendly games such as noodle hockey and corn hole, all sorts of games played at social events.

“We had lots of fun with so many other kaumātua enjoying themselves. The opportunity to tono for the 2019 games came when we were invited to do a dance demo/kumba at the National Kaumātua Services Conference.

“I spoke to my committee members and said, ‘I’m going to ask to host the next games in Te Arawa.’ We got a positive response, and we made it happen in 2019.”

Covid disrupted the 2020, 2021 and 2022 events.

“It wasn’t possible to host because of the negative effects for our kuia/koro kaumātua. Limited availability of the Events Centre was another barrier.”

To qualify for the Olympics participants must be aged 60+.

This year Laurie is particularly grateful to Tūhourangi and Ngāti Pikiao for their support.

The event is possible thanks to the generosity of the Rotorua Trust, Bay Trust, Te Puni Kōkiri, Pukeroa Oruawhata, Ngāti Whakaue Lands Trust, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Te Pumautanga Trust and a number of our Ngāti Pikiao Trusts.

Teams are coming from Whanganui, Waikato, Hauraki, Ngāiterangi, Rangitihi, Atiawa, Tūhoe, Tūhourangi, Uenukukōpako, Ngāti Pikiao Rotoma, Rotoiti and Ngāti Whakaue and community organisations are joining the fun again this year.

So, what happens on the day.

The games are all kaumātua friendly and some are completed sitting down.

There are usually 10-12 games, with a 10 minute duration, and 5 minutes to amble onto the next game.

“They are all games we played when we were kids, only a lot slower. But my goodness the competitiveness comes out to play in each and every one of the participants,” said Laurie.

“It certainly is a wonderful opportunity for our rangatahi to interact with kaumātua. They are the ones who tell the kaumātua off if they ‘cheat’ or tell them to hoihoi and they don’t listen.

“We have an adult supporter to assist our rangatahi.”

Also on hand will be St John Hato Hone.

“This day is all about providing our kaumātua with enjoyment, fun and laughter.

“We have the amazing Phyllis Tangitu as our MC, we have organised a number of activities to keep our kaumātua entertained, Kumba, Poi Ora, Line Dancing, Kapa Haka and Waiatamai with Krissi Knapp, how could we go wrong!”

Laurie wants Te Whatu Ora to play an active role in the care of kaumātua. “Te Whatu Ora needs to provide adequate funding to enable the continuity of our Kaumātua Olympics specifically for those regions who provide them annually.

“There’s a lot of kōrero about the health and wellbeing of our Kaumātua, yet limited funding is allocated to our Kaumātua Olympics. “We are fortunate to have good working relationships with our community hauora who can assist with support workers and koha. Lastly, our iwi Trusts what would we do without them!

“They are always our go-to when the shortfalls appear.”