Let the games begin!

As 4400 athletes from 15 countries begin competition today in over 50 sports, organisers of this year's New Zealand Masters Games at Whanganui will hope things go as smoothly over the next nine days as they did at last night's opening ceremony.

And what a ceremony it was.

Low flying jets from Ohakea, a procession with a carnival atmosphere, and two new venues - Cooks Gardens where the opening ceremony was held, and the War Memorial Centre which doubles as the Games Village - these will be known as the inclusive games.


Inclusive because unlike Springvale Park where the games have traditionally been based, this year all roads lead smack back dab to the CBD where cafes, restaurants, and other business owners will hope to reap some of the spin-offs. It is also a chance for the public to enjoy the party atmosphere and to be part of it.

As Games chief executive Kathy Cunningham said "It will be a party like Whanganui hasn't seen before."

Even the fickle summer weather played its part last night. With clear skies for the first time in weeks, and a slightly frisky breeze, the games got off to the perfect start.

There's no rain forecast until Tuesday. After that things lay squarely in the laps of the weather gods.

Athletes have come from from all over the country and from 14 other nations as well - some seeking friendship, others with medals on their mind an an eye on the upcoming world masters games in Auckland.

Mayor Hamish McDouall injected a little humour into the formalities by referencing US President Donald Trump. "There are millions of you out there," he said of the modest sized crowd in the grandstand.

He welcomed the athletes and their supporters and said while the world was a crazy place at times, Whanganui was the best place to be for its serenity, peace and as a place of fun. He also mentioned fantastic weather but everybody assumed that was more Trump talk.

He praised the move to bring the games into town but urged competitors to visit the whole of the city and region and to enjoy its many attractions - sentiments echoed by trust chairman mark Stoneman who said "it's five minutes to everywhere with no traffic jams and no stress."

He also reinforced that while for some the games were about serious competition, for others it was the social aspect that appealed. "Start as individuals, end as friends," he urged.

Last night's ceremony featured kapa haka and music, and athletes marched into the stadium in groups representing each sport.

Afterwards, at the Games Village in the War Memorial Centre, an opening party was kicking off featuring entertainment from 'The Magnificent Seven', the new band formed by Peter Urlich, Jordan Luck and Eddie Rayner backed by Brett Adams, Dave Gent, Bryan Bell and Patrick Khutze.

"In true Masters Games form, the social side of competition is celebrated and encouraged and we are thrilled that the band is kicking off the Games in true Kiwi style," Ms Cunningham said.

The action starts today (Saturday) with a mix of team sports such as basketball, touch rugby, softball and six-a-side football, as well as individual events like the athletics programme, cycling, motocross, and duathlon.

In addition, there will be the more fun participation events like rock 'n roll at the games village.