Dawn is a reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Bay of Plenty getting into the Olympic Spirit

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Bay locals are basking in the glow of the Olympic spirit at home, work, around town and in schools. 48 Hours reporter Dawn Picken shows how neighbours are cheering hometown heroes, embracing new sports and learning about global challenges in the context of the Games
Mount Maunganui Primary students have made Brazilian masks for different countries for the Rio Olympics. Photo/John Borren
Mount Maunganui Primary students have made Brazilian masks for different countries for the Rio Olympics. Photo/John Borren

It's 10 o'clock Tuesday morning when students at Otumoetai Primary watch New Zealand women make history.

For the first time at the Olympic Games, females are competing in rugby sevens. The Kiwi team crushed Great Britain 25-7 in the semifinal, but fell to Australia 24-17 in the final. Year 5 student Brea Miller was disappointed by the result, but offers this advice: "You can't stop and give up. You need to keep going and just believe in yourself. You can do it some day." Brea says she's enjoying watching other sports such as handball, weightlifting and gymnastics. Year 3 student Mac Thomson favours kayaking and rugby, calling the women's final, "Cool and dumb, 'cause we lost."

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Year 3 teacher Luke Hollinshead is helping organise Olympic-related activities. He says the Games fit with school values, abbreviated as CARE: Confident, Adventurous, Respectful and Encouraging. "We're trying to use numbers from the Olympics to build up their mathematical knowledge, as well ...

it's sharing and problem-solving with maths."

He points to a series of numbered papers on the classroom floor. "Seventeen is our youngest athlete; 62 is the oldest; 306 events; 199 on the New Zealand team ... it's maths week." Luke says children are also keen to share news about what they see on TV at home, like when a French gymnast broke his leg. "About six or seven came in and said, 'Did you see the gymnast and his leg?' We talk about how you practise and practise and practise, then when you go to do something, it doesn't always work out the way you want.

So you try again." Hollinshead has organised a replica torch used at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to be brought to class. He's also hoping to show pupils a silver medal won by Kiwi women in rugby sevens. "I'm a friend of Ruby [Tui]. I have my fingers crossed she can bring her medal in."

Older students, like those at Tauranga Boys' College, are revelling in the accomplishments of six "Old Boys" competing at the Rio games - Peter Burling, Jason Saunders and Sam Meech for the sailing events, Mahe Drysdale in rowing and Mike Dawson for canoe/kayak slalom. Bryden Nicholas represents the Cook Islands in canoe/kayak slalom. Principal Robert Mangan wrote in an email, "It has been a great opportunity to grow the self-belief of the boys presently at school to aspire to represent New Zealand in their chosen sport!"

He says teachers are using the Games to teach social studies and English, comparing ancient Olympics with modern ones. In addition, some classes watch finals when New Zealand competes.

Students at Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic are also learning alongside the Games.

Sport and Recreation group leader Peter Sommers says the events are a perfect opportunity for Year Two students doing a sustainable event management paper.

"In terms of Rio at the moment, it's a great one to use as a case study because every Olympics has a legacy plan and sustainability plan - what they set out to achieve from the Games. It's planet, people and prosperity. The engagement of people, awareness and inclusiveness remains to be seen."

Sommers says 82 per cent of tickets have been sold for the Rio Games, leaving 1.1 million unsold. He's says 97 per cent of London tickets sold in 2012. "And Rio tickets are half the price ... the number of empty seats at the stadium has been of interest within the class."

Polytech students can watch the Olympics live in the Atea (library space), enjoy food from five continents during 'Olympic Food Friday' for five weeks and take part in a soccer competition Wednesday.

We've got some people who normally wouldn't do cardio putting on earphones and having a go. We also have a screen on the wall, so people who should be training have stopped their workout and are glued to the TV, which is all good
Stewart Stevenson - Clubfit manager

Some local bar employees and RSA workers tell 48 Hours the Games haven't created much buzz. Worlds End Bar & Restaurant owner Cameron Keogh says he had a few customers for the women's rugby Sevens final. "I don't think people are coming in especially to watch. It's just here and it's on and they get to watch while they're here." Keogh says at home, he's been staying up until 3am or 4am, glued to event after event. "Even the archery is quite cool to watch ... with the Olympics, it doesn't really matter. You can have your own chosen sport to watch, but you find you're watching all of them."

Businesses like Avanti Plus Cycles are getting into the Games with giveaways. Mount Maunganui store owner John Bettridge says customers who buy an Avanti bicycle during the Games go into a draw to win their money back. "Three winners will also get to spend a day with the Olympic track cycling team in Cambridge. They get to go for a road ride with them, go for coffee, ride the track in Cambridge. For some, it's about the money. For others, it will be a dream opportunity."

If watching elite athletes inspires you to move, Baywave's Clubfit can help. Manager Stewart Stevenson says nearly 200 members have signed onto 'Grouplympics' involving seven group fitness classes. Members accrue points and can win prizes including a 50-inch TV. He says the club's mini TV screens encourage exercisers to stay on treadmills and elliptical machines. "We've got some people who normally wouldn't do cardio putting on earphones and having a go. We also have a screen on the wall, so people who should be training have stopped their workout and are glued to the TV, which is all good. "

Otumoetai Primary students will continue learning and having fun during next week's events. They're planning ceremonies and just-for-fun games Tuesday. Teacher Luke Hollinshead says they haven't done a school-wide event for years. "We're putting the whole school values behind it and have this amazing event that caters for five-year-olds to 13-year-olds. We're doing something big in the Olympics and it's big in our school."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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