Nearly 8000 intermediate-aged athletes will descend on Tauranga in September as the NZCT AIMS GAMES continues its remarkable record-breaking run.
The 12th year of the games will feature one new sport – sailing – and had attracted 248 schools from around New Zealand when entries closed last week. That’s up from the 215 schools entered at the same stage last year, with late entries expected to bolster that tally further.
The tournament has grown every single year since it started in 2004 and tournament director Vicki Semple believes it’s a case of success breeding success.
“Word of mouth has become our biggest marketing tool,” she explained. “We had 7500 athletes, plus managers, parents and supporters, who went away last year buzzing and they’ve obviously shared the secret. This tournament is now the biggest of its kind in Australasia and it’s hard to think of any other sporting event in this part of the world that would come close.”
The 2015 tournament will be held from September 6-11, at a range of venues around Tauranga. Among the 7845 athletes already entered are 1152 netballers, 636 rugby players, 644 cross country runners and 768 basketballers. Sailing’s debut has also attracted strong interest, with 64 yachties lining up for the Anchor-sponsored on-water event.
The AIMS Games, a premier sporting event for 11, 12 and 13 year olds, is a strategic partnership between Sport Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and the four western Bay of Plenty intermediate schools.
An economic benefit study last year found the tournament generated 37,500 visitor nights and contributed $1.96 million to western Bay of Plenty’s economy, while it was also recognised for event excellence at the annual Sport New Zealand Sport and Recreation Awards in Auckland recently.
The tournament is also building up an impressive alumni – the likes of junior All White Alex Rufer, currently competing at the FIFA under-20 world cup in New Zealand, was a star in Palmerston North Normal Intermediate’s title-winning AIMS Games squad in 2009, while world champion double sculls rower Zoe Stevenson played hockey for Tauranga Intermediate in 2004.
This year’s tournament numbers have also given organisers a further challenge – hockey, tennis and water polo competitions are all nearing capacity, while netball could have as many as 96 teams taking part.