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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Sport and Uni Games

University isn’t just about passing courses and gaining degrees. It’s also about meeting new people with similar interests, pursuing your passions, and having opportunities to try new experiences. Participation in cultural, political, and of course, sporting events, offer students valuable life skills and help foster collegiality amongst our peers. It is these experiences, rather than grade averages, that many graduates consider the most important aspect of their time at university.

While events at a campus level provide a regular way for students to further their interests, inter-university events offer opportunities for students to not only represent their university, but also facilitate relationship building and profile achievement at a national level.

Sporting tournaments have had a particularly important role to play in this area.

Intercampus sport in New Zealand originated more than 100 years ago, when in 1900 Canterbury and Otago participated in a tennis match. The suggestion was floated to organise a formal inter-university sports tournament, which took place two years later, in 1902. The inaugural event (Easter Tournament, as it was referred to back then) took place in Canterbury, where the host, Auckland, Otago and Victoria competed in Athletics, Tennis and Debating.

Nowadays, University Games is the second largest sporting event held in New Zealand; last year the Games attracted more than 2000 participants. The range of sporting events has also grown substantially – to 24 – which caters to a far more diverse range of students.

The 2009 Games are being held in Taranaki from 14-17 April, during the upcoming mid trimester break. In 2008, Victoria won the University Games shield, so this year we will be sending a team to defend the much coveted prize.

VUWSA intends on sending a team of 250 students to the Games. The VUWSA team will primarily stay at Hawera, which along with Stratford and New Plymouth, comprises the three competition hubs. VUWSA will provide return buses to transport students to and from the Games. As some readers may be aware, 2009 is the second year in a row that the Games have been held in a provincial region.

In the past, the Games were hosted in university cities. Often (though not always), this resulted in the hosting team winning. Key reasons put forward for holding the Games in some non-university locations are, (a) that doing so increases the participation of a wider variety of tertiary students and, (b) that it evens out the bias toward hosting universities winning the shield.

As Salient and other media have recently reported, the Games haven’t always been free of controversy. The 2008 experience of Rotorua moteliers who our students had the misfortune of coming into conflict with is the most recent example.

Last month, VUWSA won a case in the Disputes Tribunal against Rotorua’s Cleveland Motel. Cleveland’s management were ordered to refund VUWSA $4114. This ruling was granted because, as a result of one or two students having a bit too much to drink, the moteliers completely overreacted and evicted all students on their last night in Rotorua. Cleveland also claimed that students caused ‘damage’ to property, most of which they had no evidence of.

Now Cleveland plan on appealing the result of the Tribunal. If they do, they may need to come up with stronger and less coarse arguments. It is certainly unlikely that ‘evidence’ such as “You fucking students are the scum of the earth”, and their racist slurs about Maori students who were staying at the motel, will hold up under appeal.

VUWSA had similar problems with Rotorua’s Havana Motor Lodge. VUWSA has also filed for a hearing at the Tribunal concerning this, which will be heard next month. VUWSA is confident of also getting a positive result in this hearing.

Part of the problem is that some still have memories of the Games as it was in the 1980s. Back then the event would be sponsored by breweries and was more known for the chunder mile (skulling a jug, eating a large pie then attempting to run a mile without throwing up) than for facilitating sporting participation and achievement.

Another aspect of the problem is where the Games are actually held. Currently, University Sport New Zealand (USNZ), who organise the Games, select the location every year via a system where local council’s bid to host the event. The highest bidder is selected host of the Games.

While this system may have some benefits, it would seem sensible to hold the Games in locations which boast appropriate infrastructure and which are logistically straight forward.

As students effectively finance USNZ, it would also be appropriate to consult with university sports teams and other related parties, to ensure that Games and held in locations which are of greatest student preference.

Both the Games and university sport more generally aim to encourage sport within the tertiary sector. The Games are a serious sporting event where students are encouraged to participate and push themselves to achieve high results. To win the shield reflects that students of the winning campus have given their best and have brought pride to themselves and their team. This is what our team did at the Rotorua University Games last year, and something I hope we can repeat in 2009. Various journalists and other detractors may try to paint a different picture, but this is how it is in reality.

I’ll be travelling to Taranaki to attend the Games and support our participants. Victoria students have won 2 of the last 3 Games. It would be great to bring home the shield again this year.

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  1. Kerry says:

    You go, girl. :-D

    Watch out for the Fonterra factory locals at Hwera, they’re the majority of the working inhabitants, managers included.
    Prolly found at local pub, Friday/Saturday nights. Enjoy ..

    Drive the coast road round from Waverly to Oakura, if you have a spare hour on the way to/from NP, it’s one of the great Surf Coast highways of the world, and incidentally passes Parihaka. (If anyone wanted to know how to find the location of another of the iconic struggles of indigenous peoples in Aotearoa.) Very nice at sunset, or high tide!

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