16 Apr 2024

Olympic kākahu blessed ahead of Paris Games

7:22 pm on 16 April 2024
Master weaver Ranui Ngarimu with the kakahu designed for the Paris Olympics.

Photo: NZOC

The Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitiau, has blessed the new Olympic kākahu (feathered cloak) to be worn by New Zealand's flag bearers at the Olympic Games.

The unveiling and blessing of the hand-woven cloak took place on Tuesday at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia, where Athens 2004 flag bearer Beatrice Faumuina was among the guests.

Kiingitanga spokesperson Ngira Simmonds said the cloak was an exquisite work of art that signified great mana and was deserving of the king's royal blessing.

"Twenty years ago, the king's late mother Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu performed the same ceremony for the kākahu worn at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. That cloak was made by master weavers Ranui Ngarimu (Ngāi Tahu) and Te Aue Davis (Ngati Uekaha and Maniapoto) and was named Te Māhutonga."

New Zealand Olympic Committee kuia Ranui Ngarimu also led the creation of the new kākahu, which took around 16 months to complete.

She has named the kākahu Te Hono ki Matariki and it will be worn by New Zealand's flag bearers at the opening ceremony for both the summer Olympics in Paris this year and the Winter Olympics in Italy in 2026.

David Nyika and Sarah Hirini carry the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Kiwi flag bearers Sarah Hirini and David Nyika wear the kākahu during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

NZOC president Liz Dawson said the kākahu was a symbol of the Māori traditions at the core of the Kiwi team's culture.

"It is worn by the leaders of our team and is seen by millions around the world as the New Zealand team represents our nation in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

"It is the perfect symbol to represent the New Zealand team and we extend our heartfelt thanks to Ranui for the creation of this taonga and to Kiingi Tuheitia for his blessing."

Dawson said the unveiling day was also about strengthening the NZOC's relationship with the Kiingitanga.

"This is a relationship first forged with the late Māori Queen 20 years ago. The relationship has helped us to grow the Māori culture within our team. Our team culture of manaaki is far richer for this, and we look forward to further growth in the years to come."

Kiingi Tuheitia has accepted an NZOC invitation to attend the Paris Olympics.