Jennah Wootten's biggest regret so far on her World Masters Games journey - she hasn't been able to indulge her own sporting aspirations in any of the 28 sports on offer.

But the WMG 2017 chief executive is now standing on her own personal start-line, with the international sporting festival due to officially begin tomorrow. A handful of sports will begin competition in the morning and a spectacular opening ceremony is promised for Eden Park in the evening.

"If I had the luxury of time, I'd absolutely have a netball team," she said. "I contemplated, for a while, doing the half-marathon, because I thought it's an hour-and-half ... surely I'd be able to fit that in.

"But it hasn't been possible, so I've said to myself that I'll be in Kansai, Japan, for 2021, and I'll be a participant and I'll have a holiday as well.


"I can't wait."

That's a long way off for Wootten, who has her hands full enough, looking after the 28,000 participants in Auckland and surrounding regions over the next 10 days.

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Already closely linked to the Olympic movement, the World Masters Games has strengthened that relationship even further since Auckland secured hosting rights.

Perhaps learning from the mistakes of Rio de Janiero, where venues now lie in waste less than 12 months later, the IOC has agreed that the Masters Games will, wherever possible, follow closely in the Olympic footsteps.

The next Olympics are scheduled for Tokyo in 2020 - the next Masters Games will be sprinkled among other major Japanese cities, like Osaka, Kobe City and Kyoto, in the province of Kansai.

That means Auckland will likely be the last hosts to stand alone from that Olympic legacy.
"The most important decision you make as event owner is when you select the host city," says International Masters Games Association chief executive Jens Holm.

"I remember when the city of Auckland was bidding for this event, one of the key themes behind the bid was 'a safe pair of hands'.

"I'm happy to say now, certainly in terms of preparations, Auckland has indeed been a very safe pair of hands. All the planning has been professionally done and meticulous, and everything has been carried out exactly as they said it would be.

"As an event owner, I couldn't imagine a better city."

With major doubts now raised over New Zealand's ability or willingness to ever host another Commonwealth Games, the Masters Games organisers seem to have taken that as a challenge to show it's still possible.

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"We know that being great hosts is something in our nature and our DNA as Kiwis," said Wootten. "It's something our country did so very well during the 2011 Rugby World Cup and I have no doubt that during the 2017 World Masters Games, we will see a repeat performance."

Part of that challenge was ensuring that visitors enjoyed their stay and were able to compete to the best of their abilities, whether that be at world-record level, or for fun and camaraderie.

"There are so many moving parts, so the challenge has absolutely been logistics and making sure that we're able to move those 28,000 people around the venues in a world-class way, that their experience is world class and they leave, having had a world-class experience," says Wootten.

"Transport is a biggy and what we know from previous World Masters Games is that the participants tend to use public transport. I saw that first-hand when I was at the 2013 Games at Turino, so that's why one of our registration packages had integrated public transport provided for them."

Athletes and officials have been armed with specially branded Auckland Transport HOP cards to facilitate their movement around the city.

"We've worked really hard to develop a transport information guide for each of our competition venues, so whether people are using buses, trains, ferries or cars, we've made it easy for them to understand the best possible way to get to those venues and any allowances they need to make in terms of time, based on Auckland traffic."

Auckland Transport has become quite adept at providing public transport to Eden Park, scene of tonight's opening ceremony. Six-car rail carriages, carrying 1000 people at a time, will be supplemented by regional bus services from North Shore, Botany/Pakuranga and Newmarket.

"Eden Park is a well-oiled machine, in terms of event management and public transport, with the back-up of the ops team, working right through that period to make sure everything is running on time and right through the night," assures AT operations manager John Strawbridge.

"Services start three hours before the event itself, so there's plenty of opportunity for people to plan their travel and get there a little bit earlier.

"Going home afterwards, all the services will be on standby and ready to go when people finish the event itself - we'll get you safely home as well."

For Wootten, these are those nervous fractions of seconds before the starting pistol sounds.

"It is emontional," she said. "It's an event we've been planning now for four-and-a-half years and to be able to say it's tomorrow - there is no more countdown, we are under way - it's incredibly special.

"When you see how excited out athletes are, you see their enthusiasm - that's what we've been working hard towards.

"I think any relief will come on the first of May, when we've concluded our closing ceremony and we start farewelling our guests. At the moment, it's excitement and anticipation."

Let the Games begin.