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Cook Island Olympics

Thursday, September 23, 2010
It's no secret that Catriona Rowntree adores the Cook Islands and she was excited to attend the Manea Games, the country's answer to the Olympics. The 11-day festival of sport for the southern group of islands was hosted by reigning champions, Aitutaki, the second largest of the cluster of 15 islands in the heart of the South Pacific.

The games have been running every two years since 1998, and it's island against island. There are traditional and contemporary events and participants take the competition very seriously. Training is full-on before the games and there is a lot of pride on the line.

The games take place from October 13 to 23 to coincide with school holidays. It's a time crammed with sporting events, dancing and cultural festivities, day and night. Of course, there are opening and closing ceremonies.

There are six compulsory sports: athletics, rugby sevens, netball, soccer, touch rugby and volleyball. There also fierce cricket, darts, soccer, tennis and netball competitions.

Other events include wrestling on stilts, spinning tops, breadfruit throwing, lime and passionfruit juggling, taro mashing, plaiting coconut leaves and coconut husking. They are all great fun but still seriously competitive. They go back to the days when there were no sporting fields and locals made do with what they had. What they lack in bright lights and fancy stadiums is more than compensated with spirit and enjoyment.

It seems everyone in the Cook Islands plays one sport or another. Rugby players dream of being in an All Blacks team. Netballers are equally keen on one day competing in the international arena.

A beautiful part of the games is the emphasis on including children. They are taught to play traditional games by elders, and in the process learn more about their cultural history.

One of the highlights for Catriona was to attend the children's sailing boat race on a lagoon. Each craft is handmade using whatever the children can find on land or in the sea. Coconut shells, palm fronds, old umbrellas and bits of wood are put to good use.

A beauty pageant is held at every Manea Games. Young girls from various islands compete for the title of Miss Manea Games. The winner holds the title throughout the festival and for two years until the next games.

If you are thinking of attending the 2011 games, be warned. Book your flight early. As for attending events — you just turn up at whatever you want to see. In no time you will be smiling and cheering along with the locals!

Related video: A rare look at Raratonga


The Cook Islands in the South Pacific.


The next Manea Games will be held in October, 2011, on the island of Mangaia.

Air New Zealand launched four new seating categories for trans-Tasman and Pacific Islands flights on September 7, 2010. The categories are:

Seat Only: Includes carry-on baggage of 7kg only, complimentary coffee, tea or water and basic seat-back entertainment.

Seat & Bag: Seat Only plus a checked bag of 23kg.

The Works: Meal, alcoholic refreshments, full seat-back entertainment and 23kg checked bag.

Works Deluxe: Meal, alcoholic refreshments, full seat-back entertainment, premium check-in, extra checked bag of 23kg, lounge access and more personal space in-flight.

One-way Seat Only fares to Auckland:

  • Melbourne $169
  • Sydney $190
  • Brisbane $239
  • Adelaide $289

One-way Seat Only fares to Raratonga:

  • Melbourne $418
  • Sydney $419
  • Brisbane $440
  • Adelaide $528

For travel from November 17, 2010. Conditions apply.

Prices correct at September 23, 2010.

For further information

Air New Zealand

Manea Games

Visas: Not required for tourism visits up to 31 days. Visas for business visits can be issued on arrival. Passports must be valid for the duration of the stay.

Electricity: 240V at 50Hz with the same three-pin plugs used in Australia.

Time zone: GMT +10.

Currency: The New Zealand dollar.

International telephone code: +682.

It is recommended travellers to the Cook Islands see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit

User comments
Are you able give me the names of the traditional games. Yes i have an interest in the introduction of PI traditonal games - would like to start with getting the names right. thx.

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