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NZ's largest Indian sports seeks to spotlight discrimination

Organisers of the fifth New Zealand Sikh Games are expecting record crowds in November as they seek to raise awareness about the discrimination the community faces in the country.

Scheduled for 25 and 26 November, the games will largely be held at Papakura's Bruce Pulman Park, although golf competitions will also take place at the Pukekohi and Clark Beach clubs, hockey at ACG School in Karaka and clay target shooting at a range in Kumeu.

"This year's two-day event will be much bigger and better than the past editions," says Daljeet Singh Sidhu, president of the games' organising committee. "With participants expected from Australia, India, Canada, Malaysia and, of course, New Zealand, we are looking forward to hosting over 40000 people over the course of the weekend."

The Sikh Games were first held in 2019, attracting more than 25000 spectators to watch over 30 cultural performances. More than 125 teams - including 20 from overseas - participated in 14 disciplines.

New Zealand Sikh Games 2022

A game of kabaddi at the New Zealand Sikh Games in 2022. Photo: Supplied: New Zealand Sikh Games

Kharag Singh, golf co-ordinator of the first games, highlighted the difficulties faced by the community in a speech for the opening ceremony.

"Sikhs still face a lot of racism in New Zealand because people here are not aware of the Sikh faith," Singh said. "We are often confused with Muslims because of our turbans and beard. That's why we are calling these games 'Sikh Games', so as to raise awareness about Sikhism, and what it stands for."

The second edition of the games was held in 2020 with similar success. Covid restrictions delayed the 2021 edition, so organisers decided to combine the third and fourth edition of the games in November 2022.

In each edition, the games have hosted sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, golf, tennis, badminton, hockey, cricket and football. In addition, the games have included traditional Indian tag sports seldom seen on New Zealand soil such as kho kho and kabaddi as well as turban tying contests.

The Gatka demonstrations and competitions have attracted the most attention over the years. Gatka is a martial art with origins in Punjab, India, and was used as a battle technique by Sikh warriors.

Wrestling, shooting, tug-of-war and touch rugby have also made appearances at the games.

New Zealand Sikh Games 2022

A man helps himself to food at the New Zealand Sikh Games in 2022. Photo: Supplied: New Zealand Sikh Games

"Like in previous years, we will have a stage set up for cultural performances throughout the two days," Sidhu says. "This will include performances from New Zealand Police, bhangra and giddha [a folk dance from Punjab], performances from singers … flown in from India and comedy sketches. Free food will be served, and we will have exhibitions spreading awareness about Sikhism and the Sikh way of life.

"Every year, the police sets up a booth to raise awareness about their recruitment processes. They also disseminate information about crime prevention as many of our members are business owners.

"The annual New Zealand Sikh Games are quite simply the largest sporting event organised by the Indian community in the country. We invite everyone to come and enjoy the talent we have here."

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