Opportunities abound for NZ to get on board
Asia’s sporting wave

A new report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono finds Asia is increasingly shaping global sports trends — but New Zealand needs to do more to help its sporting talent make the most of the region’s opportunities.
A woman clearing the bar on a high jump

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they anticipated more athletes and teams would be travelling to Asia in the next five to 10 years

The Rising Impact of Asia on New Zealand Sport delves into New Zealand sportspeople’s experiences and learnings from their time in Asia and makes a range of recommendations to better equip athletes and sports people to thrive in Asia. 

“This report highlights that Asia is becoming a bigger player on the global stage for major sporting events,” says Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper. “And it’s drawing talent from around the world, driving audience growth and leading innovation in sports technology. 

“New Zealanders know about Japan’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2021, and of China’s hosting of the winter Olympics earlier this year. And New Zealand shares a passion for cricket with South Asian countries. But this report really highlights the diversity of our sporting relationships with Asia, across many countries and codes. It also shows how much potential there is for New Zealand to grow sports connections with Asia in the coming years.” 

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono commissioned the research from Professor Holly Thorpe (University of Waikato) and Dr Tom Kavanagh (Lincoln University), who surveyed more than 130 New Zealanders and interviewed 25 people who have travelled to Asian countries for sport-related purposes (athletes, coaches, administrators, medical support and journalists). The report includes short profiles of individuals who have helped grow New Zealand’s sporting links with Asia.

Eighty-nine percent of all survey respondents said that visiting Asia for sport-related purposes was a positive experience, with key highlights being interactions with locals, exploring new places and food. And 75 percent felt that a key outcome of their engagement was the opportunity to build networks in the region. 

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they anticipated more athletes and teams from their sporting codes would be travelling to Asia in the next five to 10 years.  

But the report also highlights that sportspeople can encounter a range of challenges in Asia (such as language barriers, obtaining suitable food, or climate) that can distract from their performance. 

Respondents said that more cultural preparation would help New Zealand sportspeople adjust to the environment better, get more out of their experiences and limit distractions so they could compete at a higher level.  

“This report has shown us that New Zealand’s sportspeople love travelling and competing in Asia, but that they could also benefit further from these experiences with more cultural support and preparation,” says Kirsty Sharp, sports adviser for the Foundation. “That way, they can have culturally enriching experiences off the field, while also competing strongly on it.” 

The report also notes that Asia’s growth and New Zealand’s reputation for its sporting passion and achievements provide plenty of opportunities to collaborate. But the sporting sector will need to take a long-term approach to make the most of this, and build new connections, partnerships and networks. “The Asia New Zealand Foundation is well-placed to support sporting organisations with this work,” Kirsty Sharp says.  

The Rising Impact of Asia on New Zealand Sport will help inform the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s own work with the sporting sector. Launched in 2018, the Foundation’s sports programme provides a range of initiatives to help New Zealanders grow their understanding of Asia through the language of sport, and for New Zealand sports sector to experience and thrive in Asia.  


For more information:    

Rebecca Inoue-Palmer 

Director communications and media 


027 226 8707