New Zealand Olympic Gold Medallist Jo Aleh has postponed an overseas holiday to take part in tomorrow’s official Olympic Team homecoming celebrations in Christchurch.
Like many athletes, Aleh’s motivation was simple – pride in the people of Christchurch and a desire to thank Kiwis for their support of the New Zealand Olympic Team.
Aleh was to be meeting family in Israel immediately after the Olympic Games, but decided instead to return to New Zealand for the team celebrations.
The women’s 470 sailor is not the only athlete to change plans for the event. All five members of the bronze medal winning equestrian eventing team have also travelled back to New Zealand from the United Kingdom. Of a total 27 New Zealand Olympic medallists, 23 will take part in the national celebrations tomorrow.
“I can't wait to show my Gold medal to the people who represent what I think it is to be a Kiwi,” said Aleh. “The commitment and positivity that they have shown is something all New Zealanders can aspire to.
“Christchurch has been through so much, and I am truly amazed by how tough everyone has been."
Christchurch-born gold medallist, Nathan Cohen, was also looking forward to sharing the Olympic Team’s success with the people of Christchurch. “Having close family involved in the devastation the region has suffered and seeing the destruction first hand you begin to realise just how tough it has been for the people of Christchurch,” he said. “It is great to give something back to the community.
“We hope to inspire and encourage Christchurch kids to achieve their goals, in spite of what has been a very hard period in their lives. “
A double decker bus will transport the New Zealand Olympic athletes to a formal welcome and public presentation at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre followed by a range of community events around Christchurch. Visits to the Children’s Ward at Christchurch Hospital, Daffodil House, primary schools and the Burwood Spinal Unit are on the athletes’ itineraries.
Initial plans for a nation-wide competition to select New Zealand’s ‘proudest’ town or city to host the event were put on hold following the city’s response to the 2011 earthquakes.
“Christchurch has truly made us proud and we were delighted to name Christchurch last year as the host of our official celebrations,” said New Zealand Olympic Committee Secretary General Kereyn Smith. “We’re honoured that the city are welcoming us tomorrow and the team is looking forward to the very special occasion.”
The celebrations cap off an outstanding Olympic Games for New Zealand that saw the team win a record equalling thirteen medals, including six gold.
The event kick off tomorrow (Friday, 24 August) at the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre at 11.45pm and the team heads off for community visits from 12.30pm.
Around ninety members of the New Zealand Olympic Team are taking part in the official ANZ Olympic Team Welcome Home event and many will travel by a chartered Jetstar service arriving in Christchurch at 10.50am.