Masters Games: Numbers down but still success

Numbers were down, but Dunedin Masters Games trust chairman John Bezett was still "delighted'' with last week's event.

Almost 900 fewer people entered the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin last week than did two years ago, when 5379 people came to Dunedin.

Last week's event attracted 4500 people, well down from the 2000 Games when the event peaked with 8000 people.

"As I've said to the sports co-ordinators in the past, numbers are important for sponsors ... but the criteria as far as I'm concerned, and the policy of the board, is that we run a quality games,'' Bezett said.

"We want to run an event where people still come from overseas. We want people from out of town. Some of them are just really casual and in it for fun, but they still want the event to be run really well and I think that's what we do.''

There were originally 66 sports to choose from at this year's event, but four of them - dodgeball, futsal, indoor cricket and quick rip rugby - were canned due to a lack of entries.

Football and netball were the most popular sports last week, both attracting 800 competitors.

Hockey, and ice hockey also had plenty of entries.

Dunedin hosts the Games every second year, and first staged the event in 1992.

Wanganui hosts it every other year.

An agreement has been reached with New Zealand Masters Games, meaning Dunedin is guaranteed to host the Games at least nine more times in the next 18 years, Bezett said.

Despite fewer competitors in town, he estimated the nine-day- long event injected about $4.5million into the local economy.

"Money spent on Games does not take into consideration locals,'' Bezett said.

"I would expect it to be up around maybe $4.5 to $5million worth to the city, so it's a pretty good investment. We haven't yet done a financial analysis with our budget, but we will be close enough to it.''

With the event due to return to Dunedin in two years, Bezett said the board would look at ways of making improvements.

He met the Masters Games company a couple of months ago, to discuss a strategy for future Games, and said concentrating on core sports was one way of attracting more people.

"That does not mean to say we won't put an emphasis on some of our smaller sports, because they make up numbers and are popular,'' he said.

"But we can look at larger sports where we think we can grow their games with extra personnel. Most have one or two sports co-ordinators. We are looking at getting people alongside them to help assist them grow the games.''

Introducing other sports such as indoor rowing and indoor triathlons had been good for numbers this year, and adding other similar events was also an option, Bezett said.

Dunedin Masters Games manager Vicki Kestila said it was "disappointing'' numbers had dropped below 5000 this year, but thought everyone that came enjoyed the event.

Kestila will be the only person employed fulltime until the 2018 Games, but others will be brought in to help in about a year.

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