'River people' play host to Greek rowers

By John Anthony

The Greek rowing team will have good fortune on their side at the 2010 Rowing Word Championships after receiving a Maori blessing at Wairoa Marae yesterday.
The team arrived in Tauranga yesterday where they will spend the next week training on the Wairoa River.
Shortly after arriving, they were welcomed on to the Wairoa Marae and told about the history of local Maori and the river's importance to them.
Kaumatua Te Ruruanga Te Keeti said it was a privilege to have the Greek team as guests.
"On behalf of our hapu and family we are most happy to have you here."
The river held great significance for local iwi, he said. "We are known as the river people and we are very protective of our awa [river]."
There were a lot of similarities between Maori and Greek mythology, he said.
"This blessing is so that you will have good fortune."
Bay Coast masters rower Neil Hamilton said after the ceremony the team were led to the riverside where they received a blessing.
"Each team member had river water poured down their neck as a blessing to keep them safe while they train on the Wairoa.
"It was a very special occasion."
As Greece's volunteer team liaison for the rowing world champs, he recommended Tauranga as a place for them to stay during their build-up to the competition.
The team was based at the Armitage Hotel, he said.
Greece coach Gianni Postiglione said the team had felt very welcome since arriving in New Zealand.
"It seems like a very nice place here and the people are really kind to us."
The weather, on the other hand, had not been so kind.
"We usually train in 28C heat so it has been a bit of a shock."
Rowing on a river would also take a bit of getting used to, he said.

"We're used to rowing on seas or lakes so rowing on a river will be a new experience for us."
More than 40 countries are competing at the championships, which run from October 30 to November 7 at Lake Karapiro.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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