Haka lifts flag-raising ceremony

BEIJING - In all likelihood it wasn't the first haka of the Olympic Games, and it certainly won't be the last.

But an enthusiastic rendition of Ka Mate from a large contingent of the New Zealand team definitely livened up today's flag-raising ceremony at the Olympic Village.

As chef de mission Dave Currie went through the formalities - shaking hands, presenting and receiving official gifts, smiling for the cameras - a smoggy grey Beijing day was lightened as the New Zealanders cleared their lungs with a rousing haka.

Along with teams from Uzbekistan, Hungary and Belgium, the New Zealanders were officially welcomed to the Olympic Village with speeches, national anthems and fluttering flags, more speeches, presentations and song.

In front of a number of guests, including International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and the New Zealand ambassador to China, Tony Browne, the haka was well-received, with one official describing the flag-raising ceremony as "the most interesting yet".

The performance also piqued the curiosity of local journalists, with some athletes stopped after the ceremony and politely quizzed about the "jumping and shouting", what it was and why it was done.

But despite the positive reception, there was no repeat later when it came time for the official photographs with Rogge and the New Zealand team. Not even some insistent prompting from an enthusiastic volunteer could spur the New Zealanders into a second performance.


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