The biggest multisport event on Earth is set to hit Auckland, as the 2017 World Masters Games begin this week.

With more athletes than the Olympics, the World Masters Games is the largest multisport event in the world. Almost 25,000 athletes from 100 countries will descend on Auckland for the 10 days of the Games, including more than 10,000 Kiwi competitors.

Beginning in 1985, the Games are held every four years, and this year's version will encompass 28 sports being contested at 48 venues across Auckland and Waikato. There is no admission charge for spectators to attend events at any of the venues.

Each of the 28 sports will offer both men's and women's competitions.


World Masters Games 2017 chief executive Jennah Wootten says Aucklanders are "in for a treat, with plenty of opportunities to be involved, even if they are not competing".

"Being great hosts and making visitors feel welcome creates a lasting impression that is great for our global reputation," she said.

"It's something the city did brilliantly during Rugby World Cup 2011. Thousands of visitors went home, raving about their experiences in our city and country.

"We're hoping the same will be true of the World Masters Games."

Age is the sole entry criteria competitors have to meet for most events.

Reaching "masters" age is different for each sport. Swimmers are considered masters at 25, but for most sports, it is 35. Three-quarters of a century separates the youngest athlete - 25 - from the eldes - 101-year-old Man Kaur from India, who has entered the 100m, 200m, javelin and shot put.

Basketball, softball and football are the sports with the most teams, while athletics, orienteering and swimming have attracted the largest number of individual competitors.

The weightlifting and orienteering events will double as the Masters World Championships for those sports.

There are summer and winter games like the Olympics, but unlike the globe's top sporting competition, there is no need to be an elite athlete to compete. Anyone can register for the Masters Games, regardless of ability.

A 3800-strong team of volunteers will be assisting at the event, with 700 of them coming from overseas to take part.

Event organisers are aiming for the Games to pump $53 million into the New Zealand economy, as the 24,905 competitors - along with family members and spectators - make the most of what the country has to offer. About 18,700 of the participants will hail from outside Auckland.

Organisers are seeking to deliver $30.8 million and 244,000 visitor nights to Auckland's economy.

The Government and Auckland Council together have picked up two-thirds of the cost of hosting the games, contributing $11 million and $11.75 million respectively. The rest of the $35.85 required to host the Games has come from registration fees ($8.5 million) and sponsorship ($4.6 million).

The Games will kick off with an opening ceremony at Eden Park on Friday. Part of the showcase includes the largest laser light show ever seen in New Zealand, but the ceremony is not open to the public and will be attended by athletes only.

Queens Wharf on Auckland's waterfront is set to be the entertainment hub for punters who are keen to soak in the action from the weekend after the opening ceremony.

Wootten is promising a "feast of culture, performance, music and food" at Queens Wharf.

Highlights include Toi Ora, a living gallery at The Cloud showcasing Maori arts and culture, and music and entertainment.


How old are the athletes?

Swimmers reach masters age at 25, but for most other sports, competitors will be aged from 35 upwards. There is no upper age limit and the oldest athlete is 101 years old.

How often are the Games held?

Every four years. This year's event is the ninth edition of the Games. The last event was held in Turin, Italy, in 2013 and before that, Sydney in 2009. The next Games will be held in Kansai, Japan, in 2021.

How many athletes will be competing?

About 24,905 athletes will take part, including about 18,700 from outside Auckland.

When and where are the events taking place?

The opening ceremony is at Eden Park on April 21 and the Games finish on April 30. There will be 28 different sports, held at 48 different venues across Auckland and Waikato.

How are the Games structured?

Athletes compete in age brackets of 5-10 years, depending on the sport. In team sports, the age category is determined by the youngest member of the team. There are exceptions to this, though, with rowing being determined by the average age of the crew, while surf life saving and athletics relays are organised using the combined ages of team members. There are a range of competitive, social and recreational categories.

Are the athletes covered by insurance?

Competitors are responsible for their own medical or travel insurance.