Sunday, April 26

ANZAC Day in Rarotonga

ANZAC Day is a public holiday in the Cook Islands and is celebrated with a dawn service and a parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial which is now situated at the front of the courthouse.
There was controversy this year as ANZAC Day fell on a Saturday and the market stalls and many shops decided to open. Stallholders said Saturday was their most profitable day but some people thought it showed a lack of respect.
The advantage of a Saturday ceremony was that many people who were out shopping stopped to look and listen whereas on weekday public holidays the town is usually deserted!
We were lucky with the weather. The day started dull but dry and by 11 o’clock it was fine and sunny. Right now the Cooks are at the centre of a huge area of cloud and today (Sunday) it’s been raining most of the day and there is 100% cloud cover. It’s supposed to stay that way until Thursday according to the forecasts.
The ANZAC Day church service was held at Avarua CICC and following this the old soldiers (as well as sailors and airmen – male and female) marched to the courthouse followed by the Boys’ Brigade brass band. The uniformed organisations also joined the parade and by the time they reached the cenotaph it was an impressive display.
This first video is of the initial march leaving Avarua church.

Friday, April 24

Matthew Pierre dances at the Avatiu fundraiser

Here is another video from the Avatiu Eels rugby league fundraiser.
Matthew Pierre represented the premier grade team with this drum dance. The drummers are the Tumeke dance group players.

Saturday, April 18

Cook Islands Games rugby sevens and netball

These are the last two Cook Islands Games sports code videos.
There were only six teams in the rugby sevens competition and two of them disappeared before the fifth/sixth place play-off. Well it was a hot day and liquid refreshment was obviously more attractive than a game that didn’t have much meaning. I believe Aitutaki (the boys in yellow) won the gold medal. Rugby has quite a bit of experience running tournaments so the mini games shouldn’t be a problem.
The two-evening netball competition was well-attended with plenty of vocal supporters as well as players. No doubt everyone is looking forward to the junior world champs in the new indoor stadium. The junior squad were in Rarotonga recently and had a couple of matches against the (senior) mini games squad. The seniors won both matches which ought to silence a few critics who have made snide comments about the age of some of the players. By all accounts the junior squad were very fit but the golden girls have experience and a killer instinct as well. Hard combination to beat.
It might seem that there’s been a huge amount of sport on this blog recently but people in the islands play a lot of different codes and inter-village rivalry is big in some of them. Now that the games are over it’s back to normal sporting activities until the international triathlon in May, netball in August and mini games in September.
One thing that does need fixing before then is getting the results on the web. The pages at Sporting Pulse never did get updated.

Thursday, April 16

Cook Islands Games soccer and squash

The ‘Cook Islands Games soccer tournament’ wasn’t really a games event. Every year there’s a junior soccer championship with under 16 boys and under 15 girls teams from the southern group outer islands as well as Rarotonga vaka. The organisers decided to call it part of the CI Games and at least it had real outer islanders taking part.
Soccer is a relatively rich code in the Cook Islands because it is funded by FIFA. It’s got its own headquarters at Matavera with an ‘academy’ and a couple of soccer pitches. One has a great surface and is well-drained. The other is very good but gets flooded during very heavy downpours.
A grandstand is currently being built by the number one field. Altogether soccer is a very well off and popular sport.
So it’s surprising that it isn’t part of the Pacific Mini Games! The games organising committee set down criteria for codes. For example basketball and volleyball weren’t ranked high enough regionally so they didn’t make it. Soccer, however, didn’t even apply!
It’s an odd decision. It would have given our top players the chance to play against quality opposition and many others who take part and support would have enjoyed seeing good games. Maybe the bosses just like travelling overseas. That’s an endemic problem with those in authority here.
Squash is one of the smaller codes but its players are very active and they’ve really got something to play for this year. Two glass-backed squash courts are included in the new indoor stadium. This will make it easier for spectators than leaning over a balcony looking down on things. A few years ago they hosted the Oceania squash champs and they usually hold an international tournament each year although last year’s was smaller than usual, probably because of the global financial crisis. So with brand new courts and experience in running competitions, squash is looking good for the mini games.

Cook Islands Games athletics competition

I think athletics is the most interesting code in any sports gathering like the Cook Islands Games (and the forthcoming Pacific Mini Games in September).
Lots of different activities make for some good picture opportunities!
The CI Games athletics took place over two evenings and was held at Titikaveka college field. This was obviously not ideal practice since athletics at the PMG will be at the national stadium at Tereora. That field is being tweaked and upgraded so it wasn’t available although it doesn’t look as though much has been happening apart from re-roofing the grandstand.
However, the officials seemed to have everything under control so they should cope well in September. The only people who didn’t have a lot to do were marshals. As with many of the codes, the numbers taking part weren’t all that large.
Well, the weather was hot and sunny and the young athletes seemed to be having a good time. Let’s hope that remains true for the mini games.

Monday, April 13

Cook Islands Games Golf and League Sevens

The golf competition took place over four days and was well supported although, as with most codes, the outer islands were mostly represented by people living on Rarotonga.
League sevens had just three vaka teams, Te Au O Tonga, Takitumu and Puaikura.
Usually with league sevens and rugby sevens Raro-based players form OI teams but Monday evening probably wasn’t a very good time. The rugby sevens on Saturday managed to find six teams but even that isn’t as many as when there are stand-alone competitions with no other sports going on.

Sunday, April 12

Cook Islands Games bowls and basketball

The Cook Islands Games are over and now we will see what lessons have been learned.
Of the two codes in this video, bowls and basketball, the bowlers looked as though they were having a great time. It’s a very social sport! The clubhouse was humming and everybody, from young kids to grannies and granddads, was enjoying it. Our bowlers have been to many international events and organised several themselves. If other Pacific bowlers are like ours it should be an excellent competition at the mini games.
Basketball isn’t one of the mini games codes but was added to the Cook Islands games to give the players a tournament for this year. The code went to the Pacific Games in Samoa and was disappointed to be left out of the mini games.

Friday, April 10

Cook Islands Games sailing competition

The sailing competition was supposed to take place in Aitutaki. That’s where the Pacific Mini Games regatta will be held in September. But there was no money to get people, and possibly boats, to the island so it was relocated to Muri lagoon.
Fortunately the sailing fraternity have been very active in holding regattas in outer islands. In fact they’ve trained a lot of youngsters particularly in Aitutaki and Manihiki who are now out-sailing the old hands. When it comes to the mini games the sailing event will no doubt be efficiently run even though this practice event hasn’t been ideal.
The weather’s been great though.
The race shown in the video is the radial rig Laser class. It had only three competitors although the previous two races had twelve and five respectively.
The winner was Teau McKenzie for Te Au O Tonga, followed by Helema William for Purapura zone and Anne Tierney for Takitumu.

Thursday, April 9

Cook Islands Games volleyball and triathlon

Here are another couple of sports videos – and there are plenty more to come.
Of the seventeen sports in action here I’ve got shots of thirteen.
I missed out on tennis and oe vaka (outrigger canoeing) which clashed with the first day of athletics. Anyway, since I’m shooting from the shore it’s a matter of filming the canoes leaving Avarua harbour or coming back in with not much going on for spectators in the meantime. Been there, done that (see Vaka Eiva videos). Aquatics (swimming to you and me) takes place in the lagoon and it’s another code that’s hard to film from the shore. Boxing is the final missing ‘sport’. Grown men (and women!) doing their best to injure each other isn’t my idea of fun although I’m sure it will be popular. It takes place at the Banana Court tonight (Thursday) and that’s another reason for not filming – it will be crowded and dark so I’m wimping out. My apologies to fans of pugilism.

Wednesday, April 8

Cook Islands Games touch rugby and table tennis

Here are videos of the first couple of sports at the Cook Islands Games.
Seventeen codes were included in the programme which was supposed to include teams from the outer islands. Unfortunately it looks as though none of them could afford to travel to Rarotonga. Rumour has it that they were hoping for assistance from CISNOC but didn’t find out until a week or so ago that none would be forthcoming.
So most ‘outer island’ teams are made up of Raro-based players and in some cases there are precious few of them to go around. For those codes the programme of events doesn’t bear much resemblance to what is happening on the ground.
Tennis, for example, was slated for action on one morning and five afternoons. However, due to lack of competitors, it took only one morning to complete. Sadly I didn’t manage to film any of this – it was taking place at the same time and venue as the touch rugby competition but I thought the two people I could see in the distance were knocking up, waiting for the contest to start whereas in fact it was finishing. Pity about that!
Results are also a bit hard to come by. There is a CISNOC section on the Sporting Pulse website and it even has a results page but so far nothing much is on it apart from a brief comment that ‘Takitumu showed their strengths in both men’s and women’s categories’.
Things could have been updated by now – follow this link to find out.
But as a trial for the Pacific Mini Games it shows there’s a lot to be done.
Some codes seem to be well-organised. In particular the lawn bowlers are having a ball and netballers are out in full force, players and supporters, for their afternoon competition days.
This video is of touch rugby and table tennis.
More later.

Sunday, April 5

Cook Islands Games Opening Ceremony

The Cook Islands Games are now underway.
They were postponed from April 2008 until now so that they could be used as a practice run for the forthcoming Pacific Mini Games in September.
The programme for the opening ceremony was relatively straightforward. Dignitaries, anthems, drums and chants, parade and entry of teams to Te Atukura, games flag and torch being carried from the CISNOC office by named codes and athletes.
The trouble was, nobody seems to have told the teams about it.
Or as CINews charitably put it on Saturday, “Athletes must have been too busy training for their games … as only a few made an appearance at yesterday’s opening ceremony.”
Four teams showed up, Aitutaki, Mangaia, RAMA (Rakahanga and Manihiki) and Puaikura who provided the entertainment.
The opening started about half an hour late but at least it was short and sweet.
And the start of the CI Games shows that practice is certainly needed before the big one.

Friday, April 3

Avatiu Eels entertain

Fundraising is a constant problem for sports teams in the Cook Islands. It’s hard enough for those on Rarotonga but pity the poor outer islanders where the populations are dwindling and the amount of disposable cash much less.
Rugby league now has a team from Aitutaki playing in the premier grade. The Sharks used to be easy beats but they are now pretty competitive. Fundraising must be a nightmare for them though. They have to fly over to Raro for all their away games, five of them, and even with concession rates, getting an entire team over here doesn’t come cheap.
The Raro teams have it easy in comparison as they only have to fly to Aitutaki once each per season.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago the Avatiu Eels held a fundraising night at their clubhouse and put on a really good affair. The ticket price included a plate of food (all Cookies know what that involves) and happy hour drink prices and the show. As well as the Tumeke dance group (see previous video) and three individual performances, the league teams had to put on an item. This one is by the under 18 side and although they said it was a last minute effort they had a lot of fun and so did the audience. They really rocked the upstairs veranda where it was all happening!