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News posted on Tuesday 21st June, 2016

Olympic and Paralympic Chefs de Mission Receives Precious Taonga

Olympic and Paralympic Chefs de Mission Receives Precious Taonga

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu handed over 480 pounamu taonga to the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Paralympics New Zealand during a ceremony in Christchurch on Friday 17 June.

New Zealand Olympic team Chef de Mission Rob Waddell and Paralympic Chef de Mission Ben Lucus flew to Christchurch and received the pounamu on behalf of their teams. Mark Solomon says the pendants will “connect our athletes to home while they are competing overseas.“
Double Olympian, Sydney 2000 gold medalist, and now New Zealand Olympic Team Chef de Mission Rob Waddell was honoured to receive the taonga on behalf of the team bound for Rio.

“The pounamu pendants are an incredibly important part of our unique New Zealand team culture. They connect us to each other and to where we come from.“They instil a real sense of identity and pride in all of us, and we know wearing the pendants plays a role in enhancing athletes’ performance at the Olympic Games,“ said Waddell.
Rio 2016 Paralympic Chef de Mission Ben Lucas received the pounamu on behalf of the New Zealand Paralympic team.

“It is with great pride and gratitude that I accept the beautiful pounamu taonga on behalf of New Zealand Paralympic team. The pounamu necklaces will connect the Paralympic team with all Kiwi’s at home in New Zealand and with each other as a team.

“Each unique and individually carved piece will be hugely significant to each Paralympic team member and they will wear them with pride as they compete against the best in the world in Rio this September,“ said Lucas.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Waewae Representative, Lisa Tumahai,  says the taonga carved by Waewae Pounamu are beautiful and personalised for each athlete.

“The triangle indents carved into these pounamu are a stylised variation of traditional Niho Taniwha design. And no one piece has identical indents making the pendants unique to each athlete.

“Each individually carved piece has been authenticated, photographed and loaded on to the Ngāi Tahu pounamu database, so athletes can see the unique origin and whakapapa of their taonga

“The Waewae Pounamu carvers Pierre Tumahai, Anthony Coakley and Julie Nicholl who carved these taonga from Kawakawa pounamu have done a wonderful job and I know these taonga will act to bind our athletes together and give them strength through an authentic genuine connection to New Zealand,“ said Tumahai.

“We’re really looking forward to presenting the pounamu necklaces to the team members on their arrival into the Olympic Village in Rio,“ said Waddell. “We know athletes value and treasure the pendants and what they mean. For some of our team members the pendants will build on a collection begun in London, Beijing or even Athens. For others, their taonga from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be their first.“

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the New Zealand Olympic Committee also signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise the importance of their relationship.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon, says Ngāi Tahu have a long standing relationship with the New Zealand Olympic Committee and New Zealand Olympians and it is great to see this relationship formalised.

“Ngāi Tahu has a proud history of working with the New Zealand Olympic Committee and providing taonga to our athletes. In 2004, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu en trusted on loan to the New Zealand Olympic Committee, a mauri stone which accompanies the team to the Olympic Games,“ says Mark.

“It is an honour to give these taonga today as we formalise our partnership. Pounamu is one of the most precious taonga Ngāi Tahu can give and we know that this taonga will be treasured by the Olympians who receive it,“ says Mark.

New Zealand Olympic Committee President Mike Stanley said the relationship was very important to the New Zealand Olympic Team.

“Through the inclusion of tikanga Māori, our athletes have a greater sense of belonging and identity, of commitment and connection to where they are from. This has a hugely positive impact on the team,“ he said.

“By formalising our relationship with Ngai Tahu we can ensure that we continue to include and represent Maori culture within our team in a respectful and meaningful way.“

Photo credit – Getty Images

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