The pūtātara sounded – long and deep, carrying to each corner of the room over absolute silence, which is no mean feat when thousands of excited youngsters are sitting ready to scream and shout.

It was the quietest ASB Arena would be during what was a super-charged 15th Anchor AIMS Games opening ceremony in Mount Maunganui yesterday.

The conch shell trumpet, part of a powerful welcoming performance by Tauranga Intermediate's kapa haka group, set the mood for what was to come.

Phones were lit up and waving in darkness. There was excitement in the stands. Anticipation.

Tauranga Intermediate's kapa haka group performing at the Anchor AIMS Games opening ceremony yesterday. Photos / George Novak
Tauranga Intermediate's kapa haka group performing at the Anchor AIMS Games opening ceremony yesterday. Photos / George Novak

Some of the biggest cheers were for Olympic shot-putting champion Dame Valerie Adams, who took selfie after selfie with a long line of fans before the event even started.

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She later stood on stage with Paralympian Nikita Howarth, the pair motivating and inspiring the AIMS Games competitors.

Adams said it was her first time at the event, which she said was like a "mini Olympic Games".

She spoke of her journey to the 2018 Commonwealth Games after giving birth to her first child, before leaving the young athletes in front of her with a piece of advice and a message.

"Have fun, set goals, and be prepared to work for them because if it was that easy, we would have so many more gold medals out there," she said.

"But this week, guys, what I want you to do is have fun. Go out there and smile, support each other and play fair. Pat each other on the back; make sure you congratulate each other."

Dame Valerie Adams.
Dame Valerie Adams.

Howarth also wished the competitors well and encouraged them to try different sports.

She has recently changed from swimming to cycling, despite winning gold medals in the pool in Rio.

"I just think that's really cool because, you know how some people say you can't be that great in two sports ... you know what, I'm going to test it out and see how far I can go."

This was met with loud applause.

Paralympian Nikita Howarth.
Paralympian Nikita Howarth.

AIMS Games Trust chairman Brian Diver addressed the crowd and thanked the kapa haka group, sponsors, teachers, parents, supporters and Tauranga City Council.

"All we want is for you to have a fantastic time. We wish you well, make plenty of friends, have a great time – united as a community by our love of sport. Best wishes to all of you."

Excited cheers and clapping spilled over into screaming and squealing during performances by singer Vince Harder, social media star William Waiirua, dance crew NZX and Māori comedy music group JGeeks.

The 11 to 13-year-olds in the crowd – and their parents and teachers – sang along, laughed and danced in their seats.

Singer Vince Harder entertains the crowd.
Singer Vince Harder entertains the crowd.

Tauranga City councillor Max Mason officially opened the AIMS Games at the 3pm show, welcoming the thousands of visitors "into our homes and into our hearts".

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless did the honours at the 7pm opening ceremony show.

The 2018 Anchor Aims Games run from September 9-14.

There are 10,851 athletes from 326 schools in action across 22 sporting codes.

From Kaiapoi to the AIMS Games in Tauranga

The crew from Kaiapoi North School in Canterbury. Photo / Scott Yeoman
The crew from Kaiapoi North School in Canterbury. Photo / Scott Yeoman

Athletes from Kaiapoi North School in Canterbury were in the stands.

The school's AIMS Games contingent flew into Tauranga on Saturday and are staying close to the beach in Mount Maunganui.

Levi Fletcher, 12, will be competing in basketball and said he was looking forward to coming up against different teams from around New Zealand and overseas.

This was his first AIMS Games and he was "really excited".

Asked what he was most looking forward to, Fletcher said: "Getting lots of baskets and cheering; doing our chants as a team."

Estelle Herriott, 12, will also be on the basketball court this week.

"I'm looking forward to playing as a team, representing Kaiapoi North School and hopefully getting a placing," she said.

Herriott said her team had been training for most of the year.

"I think that we can definitely get in the top 10, even the top five."

Both Fletcher and Herriott were most excited to see Dame Valerie Adams and hear her speak.

Fletcher said that was going to be "pretty cool".

The Anchor AIMS Games opening ceremony

Social media star William Waiirua. Photos / George Novak
Social media star William Waiirua. Photos / George Novak