New Zealanders perform giant haka to reclaim record

There isn’t much love lost between New Zealand and France. After all, the French beat the mighty New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, twice at a Rugby World Cup.
The 1985 sinking of the Greenpeace boat “Rainbow Warrior” in Auckland Harbour by the French secret service still hasn’t been forgotten; andto top it all, in 2014 a group of French car salesmen organized what has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the largest ever haka.
The haka is a Maori dance traditionally used on the battlefield to demonstrate a tribe’s pride and strength, and which was made famous by the All Blacks.
But on Saturday more than 7,700 rugby fans tried to right this”wrong” by staging the largest Maori war dance in history in the North Island town of Rotorua.
From wobbling toddlers to doddering seniors, thousands puffed their cheeks and did the pukana, the traditional poking of the tongues, and chanted the haka’s lyrics “Ka Mate, Ka Mate.”
The number of haka participants represented more than 10 per cent of Rotorua’s population of 65,280.
Organizers said that even though they have to wait for the record to be officially confirmed they were confident that it was well and truly broken.
“We’re so ecstatic to have smashed the largest haka Guinness World Record today,” Tony Molloy from the International Rugby Club said in a statement.
Speaking ahead of the attempt, Rotorua school principal Fred What a told local news platform, “The French beat us in the World Cup twice. They blew up our Rainbow Warrior. It’s time to take back our haka. It’s time for utu [vengeance]. It’s time for revenge.”
He added that the haka belonged to Maori. “That’s where it originates from. We need to own this,” Whata said.
The current record sits at 4,028, and while an attempt to push the French from the haka throne took place last year in the North Island town of Masterton, with more 6,200 school children taking part, it was not an official one.
Rotorua, famous for its volcanic activity, was bustling on Saturday,with local and international rugby fans in town to see the Britishand Irish Lions take on the Maori All Blacks in the evening.
In order to know exactly how many participants joined the war dance on the city’s village green and to adhere to Guinness’ strict rules,a grid was marked on the field with 100 squares.
As the participants arrived they were handed tickets with a bar code that was scanned when they entered the haka area to keep track of the numbers.
The haka had to be performed for five consecutive minutes to break the record, which meant that the haka leaders repeated “Ka Mate”three times.
“Ka Mate” (“I will Die”), is the well known challenge performed by the All Blacks before games. A haka was first performed before a rugby match in England on 3October 1888 when the touring New Zealand Natives played Surrey. — dpa