CAPTIONS…Games open: Flagbearing athletes arrive via KJet into Queenstown Bay for the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ opening ceremony (top); Deputy Prime Minister Bill English (left) and Games chairman Sir Eion Edgar officially open the Games; American cross-country sprint skier Andy Newell on his way to gold at Snow Farm
PICTURES: Hannah Johnston, Getty Images
The 2013 Winter Games are underway Queenstown style – flag-bearers for 41 competing countries arrived via jetboat to the opening ceremony.
Wakatipu High student Ngawai Davis led a stirring rendition of Kiwi national anthem God Defend New Zealand – in Maori and English – after the arrival of the athletes across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown’s Games hub at Earnslaw Park.
The opening heralds the beginning of 10 days of world-class winter sporting action in Queenstown, Wanaka and Naseby where more than 750 athletes – including Olympic medallists and X Games champions – will compete in skiing, snowboarding and curling.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ chairman Sir Eion Edgar, who is one of the event’s visionaries, reminded the opening crowd television highlights of the games will be beamed into one billion households worldwide.
Live webcasts of every final were also being distributed.
“This is unprecedented for an event from this region and I think for New Zealand,” he said.
“In a short time we have established ourselves on the international stage. The economic benefit to this region will be at least $10 million without counting the worldwide benefit of the coverage.”
Edgar also noted the high-calibre fields for the events, which will see stars like global snowboarding sensation Shaun White and freeskiing champion Gus Kenworthy take part.
“It’s a unique opportunity to see the best skiers and snowboarders in the world on home turf.”
Deputy Prime Minister and local MP Bill English declared the Games officially open, saying it’s amazing to see athletes from 41 countries find their way to the “bottom of the world”.
“We benefit enormously from the presence of these outstanding young people, we get to be seen on the world stage.”
Government’s Major Events Fund has chipped in about million dollars to this Winter Games, an event which aims to be self-sustaining by 2017.
This third biennial Games is the first with a naming sponsor – Audi quattro.
Day one results
Cross Country skiing sprint
Mens – 1st Andy Newell (USA); 2nd Alexey Petukhov (Russia); 3rd Devon Kershaw (Canada)
Womens – 1st Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland); 2nd Daria Gaiazova (Canada); 3rd Anastasiya Kuzmina (Slovakia)