A host of New Zealand's most well known Olympic and Commonwealth Games athletes have gathered alongside Olympic partners, benefactors and members of New Zealand's sporting family in Auckland tonight for the 2018 Olympic Gala Dinner.
The black tie fundraiser has brought the athletes together at to celebrate the success of the New Zealand Team during one of New Zealand's most successful Olympic and Commonwealth years in history.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were New Zealand's most medalled offshore games ever, and the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games saw two teenagers secure the first Olympic Winter medals for New Zealand in 26 years.
The gala dinner also marks the shift in focus for New Zealand sports and athletes towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where more than 200 athletes are expected to compete in just 599 days time.
Mahe Drysdale, Sarah Walker, Ethan Mitchell, David Liti, and Blair Tuke were just some of the athletes on the red carpet who will be looking to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games in 2020. Youth Olympic Games athletes Kanah Andrews-Nahu (weightllifting) and Gina Galloway (swimming) will also take the opportunity to mix with some of their Olympic heroes.
Tokyo 2020 will see the best athletes from around the globe go head to head, as the equivalent of 30 world championship events take place in one of the world's most vibrant cities over an intense 17 days of competition from July 24 2020.
Olympic medal winner and IOC Athlete's Commission member Sarah Walker says it's fantastic to be looking towards Tokyo 2020.
"2018 has been a great year and I'm stoked to be working towards Tokyo 2020. It's great to be here tonight with so many fantastic athletes as well as the people who help to make the Olympic Games happen."
Rio 2016 gold medallist Blair Tuke has also confirmed he and teammate Peter Burling will return to the 49er for the Tokyo Games.
"It's pretty exciting to start thinking about Tokyo and the challenge of another Olympic campaign. There's a lot of work to do between now and then but we're excited for the competition and can't wait to get stuck in."
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith says preparations are already underway for the New Zealand Team's Tokyo campaign.
"New Zealand is one of the smallest nations in the world but in the Olympic Games we are constantly in the top 20 - by team size, by result, and the positive impact we have. We are looking forward to Tokyo 2020 and are already working hard behind the scenes to ensure our athletes have everything they need to represent us with honour and pride at the Olympic Games."
Smith said that the Gala Dinner is a crucial fundraising event, with all proceeds to go towards getting the New Zealand Team to Tokyo 2020.
"It costs a lot of money to get a team to the Olympic Games and make sure they are prepared and with everything they need to take on the world's best. We couldn't do it without the support of our generous sponsors, partners, benefactors and the people in the room tonight so I'd like to thank them for everything they do for the New Zealand Team."
The New Zealand Olympic Committee will also start the roll-out of a refined New Zealand Olympic logo. The words "NZ Team" have been added strengthening international recognition and connecting athletes to each other and the team, regardless of whether they have competed at Olympic, Commonwealth or Youth Games. Following consultation with more than 100 athletes from our past, present and future, our Silver Fern remains unchanged as strong reflection of the Olympic Games’ legacy in New Zealand and the contribution and history of our athletes. The separation of the rings from the fern follows updated IOC guidelines.
ABOUT NZOC FUNDING
The New Zealand Olympic Committee is heavily reliant on commercial and other partnerships to deliver on its objectives and ensure athletes achieve their goals at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. In the 2013 - 2016 quadrennial, 73% of funds came from these valued partners, benefactors and trusts.
Costs of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games have increased significantly over the past decade, as have high performance expectations and the cost of success. While income has also risen, this nonetheless provides substantial challenges for the NZOC.
For a copy of the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s most recent annual report please go to : http://www.olympic.org.nz/assets/Uploads/NZOC-Annual-Report-2017.pdf
ABOUT THE NZOC
The New Zealand Olympic Committee was established in 1911.
Since then, we have used our unique mandate to select and lead more than 60 teams to Olympic and Commonwealth Games across the globe.
Today our athletes and teams remain at the heart of our organisation and their stories have become integral to our national identity.
They represent Aotearoa New Zealand with honour and pride and the silver fern is a symbol of their sporting success.
As an organisation, we value excellence, integrity, leadership, pride and respect. Inclusion and diversity underpin these values and carry across all the work we do. We honour and recognise the unique history and culture of Aotearoa.
It shapes and supports our teams, unifying our athletes as they inspire pride and excellence in New Zealanders.
For decades our teams and athletes have showcased our unique culture and values on the world stage as well as promoting excellence and innovation through their stories and success.
The work we do has a significant benefit and positive impact on New Zealand society and also provides international exposure, connections and opportunities for our sports, athletes, business and government leaders.
We are a charity and rely heavily on commercial and other funding partnerships as we promote sport and the Olympic values and help create New Zealand history.
We are engaged in education programmes for young New Zealanders and, through Olympic Solidarity and other partnerships, help fund athlete and sport development.
We share the inspiring stories of our athletes and teams through our own communications channels and also support the media in performing this role.
As a membership organisation, we comprise more than 40 national sporting organisations.
We are proud to represent the Olympic and Commonwealth sporting movements in New Zealand.