The New Zealand Community Trust AIMS Games has gone on another record-breaking rampage with nearly 9300 intermediate-aged athletes signing up for this year’s tournament.
While last year’s record of 8011 athletes was impressive, tournament director Vicki Semple says she’s staggered by the response from the 265 schools when entries closed on Thursday night, describing it as a “small explosion”.
The 2016 AIMS Games It is the premier sporting event for young people aged 11-13 and will take place at a range of venues across the Western Bay from September 4-9.
Vicki says the organisers thought entry numbers might start to plateau after last year.
“But obviously we still haven’t touched the sides. The response this year has been nothing short of extraordinary,” she says.
“While we have three new sports this year, the most impressive part is that the numbers in every other sport have also increased, some dramatically.”
There’s an international flavour this year with two schools from the Cook Islands (Nukutere and Apii Avarua) and Tonga’s Liahona High School sending 12 badminton players, with help from Badminton Oceania.
BMX, canoe slalom and futsal are the three new sports introduced this year; with the latter being a modified version of football with five players on an indoor pitch.
The futsal competition has attracted 276 players in its first year, while BMX and canoe slalom also made healthy starts with 89 and 31 entries respectively.
The big numbers are in netball, 11-aside football and hockey, but with 1344 netballers from 112 teams – making it one of New Zealand’s largest netball tournaments at any level.
Football players have also cracked through the 1000-barrier, with 1232 players from 88 teams, while hockey has 1040 players spread across the 11-aside and 6-aside divisions.
Rugby sevens (840 entries), basketball (888) and cross country (772) are the next biggest sports, while 648 students have signed on to compete in the Performance Group challenges.
An economic benefit study in 2014 found the tournament generated 37,500 visitor nights and contributed $1.96 million to the local economy. In 2015, the games were also recognised for event excellence at the annual Sport New Zealand Sport and Recreation Awards in Auckland.
The games also has an impressive alumni, with the likes of junior All White Alex Rufer staring 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.
The NZCT AIMS Games is delivered in partnership between Sport Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and the four Bay of Plenty intermediate schools.