Game on for Games' master

By Anna Wallis

The reporter's questions are dropped in between an incessantly ringing phone and queries from all quarters.

Les Lunny is in charge of building the hub for the 13th Masters Games in Wanganui, and he's a wanted man.


Games Central is the tent town on Springvale Park. Between now and next Sunday, nearly all the 5000 competitors will visit the place. It's a first aid post, shopping mall, cafe, night club and information centre rolled into one.

Mr Lunny has helped with every Masters Games since they started in 1989, and it's lucky 13th for him. The games are held in Wanganui every second year, alternating with Dunedin.

A walk around the tent village shows the main entrance with the medical tent for injuries and massage as close as possible to the gate for ambulances to reach athletes. It's that kind of planning that Mr Lunny is responsible for,

There are 112 volunteers at the games today, putting the village together with 14 in the build crew.

Everything has gone well so far. Though the tents were put up in bad weather, the sun has certainly been shining lately.

"We've gone from good weather for ducks to this heat, which is hotter inside the tents - well over 30 degrees most days."

The tents cost the organisers $55,000 to rent.

"People expect we are making a fortune from the games. Well you can see why we don't. There are big costs."

In the next tent, Mike, a firefighter, is pitching in on his holidays. He competes in the games, this year at tennis and petanque.

Mike and other workers are laying floors, putting up the partitions, and installing fire alarms in the tent that will house stands for sponsors and other marketing. Electricians put in the lighting.

It's one of seven in the compound at Springvale Park.

It's the first year Mr Lunny has been in charge of the build, taking over from Brian Frith.

Now "employed by John Key", he used to be a building inspector in schools. Prior to that he was a builder in Auckland. He has lived in Wanganui for 33 years.

"The only good thing out of Auckland is the road to Wanganui," he tells Mike.

"For the last couple of games I was shadowing Brian around to find out how it worked. He had the hidden knowledge about it all I needed to tap."

He's also made a couple of changes this year, including all the tents closer together.

"We've tightened it up a bit. Makes it more intimate, easy for the athletes to enjoy the whole thing."

Mr Lunny's at the build from 7.30am to 6pm each day. After the games start on Friday, he will do the "6pm to finish" shift which can mean staying round till after 1am as athletes socialise.

Next we go into the cavernous entertainment tent. Mr Lunny doesn't know how big it is, but it can hold 2000 people. There's an elaborate sound system for live music, a bar, and this year a VIP area for anyone who dresses in accordance with the theme - ancient Greece. A podium has been set up for those who want a toga party.

He won't say how Games-goers socialise or repeat the funniest thing he's ever seen.

"What happens at the Masters Games stays at the Masters Games."

He says everyone enjoys themselves, in competition and the after-match functions.

"They step into a different world. When they come into the tent, they are here to have fun."

There has never been any trouble with policing the games.

"We've had deaths but never arrests."

The best bit of the socialising is the dressing up, and people getting into the theme of each year's games, he says.

"The netball girls are always the best. They have a whole team fancy dress. And the soccer boys are good too, getting into the spirit of it."

Next point of interest on the tour is the self-built block of toilets the games organisers are pretty chuffed about.

Created in a container, the block of eight toilets will complement the other facilities in the stadium nearby.

"We built the whole thing ourselves, and it's mobile, so we'll be able to hire it out for other functions. That's how we are trying to save some money. The cost of portaloos was just getting too much."

Judging by the All Golds NZ Rugby League top he's wearing this day, Mr Lunny must have done a bit of sport himself. He's played league and touch, coached the Kaierau under 20s and has helped organise touch at some of the first Masters Games.

It has never crossed his mind to enter himself.

"One, I'm getting too old and two, I've got enough to do. My job doesn't finish when the games do. We've got another week of breaking down the village and sorting everything out."

Mr Lunny says he's got involved in the event every time, because it's the biggest show on earth for Wanganui as far as he is concerned.

"I do it because it's the greatest thing Wanganui ever got. And I was involved from the start. It's just got bigger and better ... I love doing it and most people involved love doing it."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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