New Research Explores How Olympic Games Have Shaped NZ Identity

As part of his doctoral thesis, Victoria University of Wellington graduate Micheal Warren explored “the contribution New Zealand’s participation in the Olympic Games has made to national identity.” reports.

“Micheal conducted around 30 interviews with New Zealand Olympians—from the 1960s to the 2016 Rio Olympics—as well as former Minsters of Sport and members of the New Zealand broadcast media who have commentated the Olympics.”

“While rugby arguably dominates the national conversation about New Zealand’s sporting success, Micheal says it’s our participation in the Olympic Games that reflects something unique about the New Zealand psyche,” as reported in the article.

“If you think about the way New Zealanders often characterise themselves—punching above our weight, Kiwi ingenuity, the underdog—when you think about the Olympics, those phrases that we grow up with really apply. In a way, our Olympic participation epitomises what it means to be a New Zealander,” he said.

“If you go through our history and look at some of the big sporting moments for New Zealand, they often happened at the Olympics. We hear about rugby as a cornerstone of our national identity, but New Zealanders’ relationship with the Olympics more accurately represents and defines a sense of New Zealand identity.”

“The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will mark 100 years since New Zealand sent its first independent team, and Micheal says a lot has changed in that time”, including the professionalisation of sport as well as the sense of cultural identity of our Olympians.

“New Zealand first sent athletes to the Olympics in 1908 as part of an Australasian team, and it wasn’t until the Munich Olympics in 1972 that New Zealand’s national anthem God Defend New Zealand was played at medal ceremonies instead of God Save the Queen.”

“The sense of cultural identity that New Zealand athletes go away with is much stronger now, and is probably the most developed out of anywhere in the world. It’s reflective of a more multicultural and inclusive New Zealand—a New Zealand that arguably became more independent over the course of the 20th century and found its place in the world.”

Article Source:, December 12, 2018
Image Source: Victoria University of Wellington

Tags: Micheal Warren  Olympic Games  

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