Monday, May 31

The Queen’s Baton gets moving in Rarotonga

After arriving on Friday night, the Queen’s Baton Relay opening ceremony took place on Saturday morning, although launch would probably be a better way to describe it.
It was definitely a low key affair with not many spectators apart from those related to the kids who welcomed the baton and then carried it around the stadium.
It was a beautiful day though and once the baton moved out onto the road there were plenty of people to carry it and cheer it along.
People in Rarotonga know it’s wise to avoid politicians giving speeches although, like the arrival on Friday night, these were kept short.
More later.

Saturday, May 29

The Queen's Baton arrives in Rarotonga

The Queen’s Baton contains a message to be read at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year. The baton visits as many Commonwealth countries as possible with a relay being held in each one.
The baton arrived in Rarotonga on Friday 21 May and was welcomed at the airport with a turou and dancing.
There was quite a media throng on the tarmac with not only the regularlocal contingent but also a large number of photographers who are travelling with the baton to record its every move. It may sound like a lovely assignment, travelling around the world taking pictures, but those people are working really hard as they have to get a story and selection of photos online every day on the Commonwealth Games website.
The arrival and greeting must have been quite impressive for the newly arrived tourists. Of course, Jake Numanga was there with his ukulele and songs meeting every plane as he has done for many years, but the cultural display was something extra!
There were a few speeches, mercifully short but the highlight of the welcome was people being able to hold the baton which is a pretty impressive high tech article.
The baton relay itself took place on Saturday (22 May). Beautiful weather plenty of action.
I’ll have more videos of parts of the relay but at the moment I’m in Dunedin (where the weather is anything but beautiful) where my time to edit and internet access are both limited.

Thursday, May 20

Intermediate Dancer of the Year auditions

A couple of posts ago (Rarotonga's dancer of the year coming soon) I mentioned the Dancer of the Year competition along with video of some of the junior contestants.
This video shows the intermediate auditions. There will be more dancers on finals night – some kids were busy with school work at the time of the auditions and last year’s champions will also be included.
The finals next Thursday (27 May) should be a spectacular night of dancing. Unfortunately I won’t be able to see it as I’ll be in New Zealand next week.
I’m sorry to be missing out on the competition but looking forward to the trip to NZ (but not the weather which seems to be cold, wet and windy at the moment).

Saturday, May 15

The new Vaevae Challenge

Following hot on the heels of World Health Day, the Cook Islands public health department has started another Vaevae Challenge.
Vaevae means ‘legs’ (in CI Maori) and the idea is to get more people walking or doing some other form of exercise.
We’ve had similar contests in the past and they’ve been very popular.
Teams of between four and six people from the workplace, clubs, schools or just friends, keep track of how much exercising they do. They get points for each half-hour’s-worth and the team with the most points at the end of six weeks wins the challenge. There are extra points every now and again for things like group walks or taking extra people along with you, best uniforms (Cook Islanders love an excuse for getting a new T-shirt designed), best team photo and so on.
The challenge has been run before – in fact it’s back by popular demand – and a lot of people will be walking or jogging in the early morning, at lunchtime or after work.
Quite a few will carry on at the end of the competition.
One thing about living in a tropical island paradise is that the weather is good for getting out and about most of the time!
Hash House Harriers combined their regular Monday run with the vaevae start so participants could choose between long and short courses, runs, jogs or walks. Something for everyone.

Saturday, May 8

Rarotonga’s dancer of the year coming soon

The Cook Islands Dancer of the Year competition was scheduled for late April/early May this year but it had to be delayed because of cyclones and such. However the auditions have just been completed.
In previous years the southern group outer islands have also taken part but money’s tight at the moment and the competition has been scaled back.
The junior, intermediate and senior finals will all take place on 27 May at the auditorium. This will make for a long night’s entertainment!
This video is of the junior auditions. As you can see, the kids all performed in costumes but on finals night the stage will be lit and decorated and the children will have a variety of props and quite probably elaborate additions to their costumes.
At the auditions everyone used the same drum beats for the slow and fast sections but the dancers will be performing to songs of their own choosing (about two minutes long for senior dancers but it may be less for the little ones).
You can bet that the kids (and their parents, friends and relatives) will be putting a huge amount of effort into getting ready.
It’s bound to be a spectacular night – fans of Cook Islands dancing should look out for the culture ministry’s DVD of the competition which should come out in June some time.

Sunday, May 2

Biggest ever Rarotonga international tri

This year’s Rarotonga International Triathlon was a huge success with the biggest ever field of both local and overseas competitors.
We were lucky with the weather too. It rained beforehand for about ten days almost non-stop; mud everywhere, the roads dissolving into potholes linked by the occasional piece of tarmac (their usual state I might add); the poor tourists must have wondered what they’d come for. But then the day before the race the skies cleared, the sun appeared and the puddles started drying out.
Cook Islands News put out their usual supplement (you’ll be able to check it out with the story and results when the website is updated on Wednesday).
About 120 individuals took part with over 90 from overseas, mainly New Zealanders with a couple of Australians and one German according to the paper. We also had 24 teams of two or three people.
The Girl Guides turned out in numbers to man the water stations and cheer on the athletes and there were plenty of spectators both at Ngatangiia and along the road.
Last year’s winner, Josh White from Australia, made it three in a row in about 2 hours 8 minutes (outside the race record of 1:58:18 which has stood since 1998). Josh also won in 2008. Michelle Bremer was first woman home in this her first Raro Tri. Phil Washbourn, a newcomer to triathlon, was first local male and Kelly Pick also made it a double, coming in first local woman for the second year in what I think is a new local record time of around 2 hours 19 minutes.
This video is longer than usual at just over 4 minutes but everyone was putting in so much effort it seemed a shame to cut it short!