Episode 86: The Olympics and New Zealand’s National Identity

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We love the fact that we have listeners from all over the world, and while we do love Team USA, we are also really happy when we can bring a different country’s perspective to our show.

Today we’re talking about New Zealand and what participating in the Olympics means for its national identity. Our guest is Dr. Micheal Warren, an adjunct research fellow at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. We talk with Micheal about New Zealand’s place in Olympic history–and it has a pretty prominent one for being a small country–how the stance “politics and sport don’t mix” changes at one’s convenience, and how a “disastrous” Olympic performance has changed the way the government funds athletes.

We also talked about the cultural elements within Team New Zealand and its “Earn the Fern” program. Micheal gives us some things to notice about Team NZ during an Opening Ceremonies and explains their symbolism. And we get into haka talk.

A haka is Maori war dance that’s used in ceremonies, celebrations and as challenges. Most notably, the All Blacks, the national rugby team, are famous for their pre-match hakas. You might see them at the Olympics too — Micheal tells us when to look for them. He mentions how Kiwi fans performed a haka for gold medalist Sarah Ulmer at Athens 2004. You can see her reaction here.

Now, Jill loves a good haka, so this episode has encouraged her to go down a YouTube rabbit hole. Here are some of her favorites (excuse her while she grabs a Kleenex–she gets pretty emotional watching them):

If you’ve got a favorite haka, send it to us! We’re at info@olymfever.com (just don’t send that wedding one — that one really makes Jill cry).

But back to our guest. Micheal’s dissertation about the Olympics and national identity is a great read. You can find it here. You can also follow him on Twitter to keep up with the news on New Zealand’s Olympic efforts.

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Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

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