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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

JAN LOGIE (Green): Thank you, Mr Speaker. It’s my huge pleasure to rise on behalf of the Green Party and acknowledge the fabulous efforts of the Aotearoa Paralympians at the Tokyo Olympics, with a special shout out to Tonga for a great contribution to our team, mālō ‘aupito.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge all 29 athletes who made it, and those who didn’t make it because of difficulties qualifying in the midst of a global pandemic. Elite athletes seem to me like a bit of a breed apart from the rest of us, demonstrating such determination, sacrifice; just sheers guts, as well as that illusive thing called athletic prowess. They say, though, much of the success comes down to mental attitude, and I suspect that has been more true this year than in any other year, what with the delay, breaks in training, and a loss of audience and the usual supports. It was a small team with many—18, in fact—first time athletes who are now well set up for the next Olympics. So congratulations to every one of them.

As a country stuck to our couches with our chippies and beers, we cheered them on, and they all made us so proud. To be honest, we would have liked to see more of them, and the Greens will advocate for better TV coverage for the next games. I want to acknowledge everyone, but I can’t go past a particular mention to Tupou Neiufi for our first medal, which was so unexpected—to us, at least—and the perfect gift to South Auckland at a time when there was so much bad news.

And, of course, the legend Sophie Pascoe, who left everything in the pool, and a bit more on the side. She brought home two golds, a silver, and bronze after almost pulling out just weeks before the games because she’d not been able to compete in an international competition for almost two years and it had been months since she had been in a serious competition. She said at one point she felt she had let us down. I want to say clearly in this House: Sophie, you did not let us down, you did us bloody proud.

Finally, I also want to acknowledge the words of Chef de Mission, Paula Tesoriero, describing the Paralympic village: “There are more people like me, no awkward stares, and most things are accessible. I wish the rest of the world could be like that. More social inclusion, greater accessibility.” So as the ultimate tribute to our athletes, let’s all take an action to make our country more inclusive, #lifeshouldn’tbeanOlympicstruggle.