OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NEW ZEALAND SPORTS HALL OF FAMEPrime Minister
Dunedin Railway Station
Mr Chairman, honoured members, ladies and gentlemen.
We all need heroes.
It's always a pleasure to be surrounded by people who represent excellence, who have reached the highest levels of achievement for themselves and for New Zealand. We celebrate them this evening.
There are, of course, many similarities between sport and politics.
You have other competitors who would like nothing better than to beat you. And to ensure you play fair and stick within the rules, you have a referee or an umpire.
As in sport, we in politics also have teams and we know from long experience that the team that is united will win.
As we approach the finish line of our greatest race - one that's held every three years - I am happy to assure you that my team is absolutely united and that we have a fearsome finishing kick. On Saturday we'll know the score. For New Zealand's sake - may the best team win.
I was delighted to accept the invitation to formally open the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame because sport is a vitally important part of our society.
It is, of course, a major industry in itself. It is a pursuit that has a decided advantageous impact on health spending. It provides us with reasons to take pride in being New Zealanders. And it helps identify us as a nation.
Sport is a major contributor to the overall wellbeing of our nation. And our sports people are excellent ambassadors who proudly carry our flag on the international stage.
The Sports Hall of Fame represents the best of sport and the best of New Zealanders.
I'm aware that what you see here represents just the beginning of a significant collection of memories and memorabilia of New Zealand's finest sporting moments.
This Hall will, no doubt, continue to grow as a focal point for all New Zealanders who value and honour the achievements of our most successful sports people.
I believe it will add to the tourism highlights that are rapidly emerging in the Dunedin and Southland areas. Tourism is a big earner for these regions and New Zealand and this another jewel in Dunedin's crown.
I'm sorry the Chairman, Garry Ward, could not be here tonight but I thank him, Ron Palenski and all the others who have helped develop this project from when it was just an idea in the minds of a few people in Wellington.
They know they may have bitten off more than they could chew because New Zealanders will continue to achieve at the highest levels of sport and the numbers inducted in the Hall will grow. It is a task that truly will have no end.
Sport brings out the best in us and the worst in us. We love to win. We hate to lose. Great sports heroes generally have experienced both. The way they handle it makes them great.
Looking around at those represented in this Hall, I can't imagine New Zealand sport ever losing its way or, imagine New Zealanders losing that most basic aim of sport ? the will to win.
It is true, though, that success at the highest levels of elite sport is harder to achieve than ever before, particularly by a country with just 3.8 million people, no matter how burning the resolve.
My Government has greatly increased funding to sport over recent years, and much of that increased focus on sport was with the Sydney Olympics in mind. New Zealand will never in our lifetime have another Olympics as close to our doorstep.
It's necessary to plan far beyond Sydney, however, and it will be timely, in the first year of the new millennium, to review the way sport is structured with a view to gaining every possible advantage we can.
Such a review, which my Government will implement, will not concentrate solely on the sharp end of the sporting pyramid ? on the sporting elite.
The apex of the triangle is where the gold medals, the world titles, the profiles and the prize money is, but it's at the base of the triangle where the future lies - and we will ensure that we give equal attention to both.
Our review of sport will study ways in which resources can be shared to the mutual advantage of all, and how all sports and related bodies can work toward a successful future in a cohesive and united way.
It is only by presenting such a united front with a commitment to success that New Zealand can continue to develop champions of the type who are represented in this Hall of Fame.
We, as a Government, and we, as a people, owe this commitment to these past champions.
The purpose of the Hall is to honour the champions of the past, to preserve the memories of their deeds, to educate succeeding generations in their feats and to inspire a new generation of champions.
It is incumbent upon all of us to carry out these worthy aims.
I now declare this Hall formally open and, on behalf of all New Zealanders, thank all the champions who made it possible.
May there be many more of them.