Indigenous | Olympics

Olympic flagbearer korowai blessed by Kiingi Tuheitia

With exactly 101 days until the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, the official kākahu for the opening ceremony were blessed by Kiingi Tuheitia at Tūrangawaewae marae today.

Master weaver and New Zealand Olympic Committee kuia Rānui Ngārimu says the new korowai pays homage to the previous korowai ‘Mahutonga’, which was blessed by Queen Te Atairangikahu for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

“It’s about providing something that allows our athletes to go out there on the world stage and represent us in the best way that they can.”

She has named the new kākahu ‘Te Hono ki Matariki’ and is to be worn alongside ‘Mahutonga’ by the New Zealand team’s flagbearers at the opening ceremony of the Paris games.

Ngārimu says Mahutonga took a team of more than 15 people to complete.

There was a celebration over the weekend to signify the end of the long weaving process before the official gifting on Tuesday morning at Tūrangawaewae marae.

‘So much aroha’

“It’s wonderful to be able to hand it over but it’s also emotional for me because there has been so much aroha put into it,” she says.

Mahutonga was first worn by discus thrower Beatrice Faumauina at the Athens Games, in which she won a gold medal. “It was a first, and all I could do was cry,” she said after the pōwhiri this morning.

“It’s a sentimental piece that represents so many wonderful values. It’s a blessing that has been received on behalf of many iwi, many nations that gives us the courage to continue the work that we do.”

Kiingitanga spokesperson Ngira Simmonds highlights the relationship the Kingitanga has with the Olympics committee.

“We have had a 20-year relationship with the committee back when Queen Te Atairanghikahu blessed Mahutonga and it’s a relationship that is very important to us.”