Masters Games gets underway

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The organisers of the South Island Masters Games have praised the decision to turn Saxton Field into an athletes village, believing it has created a certain buzz around the event.
The South Island Masters Games, which is being held in Nelson for the second time in three years, began on Saturday with a vast range of sports, combining both social and competitive athletes. Generally the age limit was 35 and over, but in some sports that had been lowered to encourage more entrants.
A number of different facilities were hosting events, but the majority were at Saxton Field where the opening ceremony, socials and event bar were situated, making it an “event hub”, says Sport Tasman events manager Rita Merriman.
“It has really enhanced these games. We’ve had great feedback so far about how people are liking the one central point,” she says. “They register here, play here and stay for the socials.”
Despite some individual sports having minimal entries, Rita says everything was going smoothly and that the number of competitors was rising each day. Currently there were “upwards of 500” people taking part. “There are always some that have small numbers but going in we know that and they’re fine to run their competitions with less numbers. For us, as long as we can run a viable competition with the numbers we have then we’ll have a good time.”
The most popular sports were football and netball, which is partly due to the more social nature of the competitions. While there were obviously some serious athletes, a lot of the teams, particularly in the women’s competitions, dressed up for the event. “I don’t know a single netball team that wasn’t dressed up, which is really cool. The team sports certainly drive the numbers.”
It was unknown which sports drew the most out of town athletes, but Rita expected to find that out once a survey had been sent out following the games. She estimated that 50 per cent of the athletes were from out of town. “The biggest out of town numbers are definitely coming from Canterbury.”