Welcome home party for Joseph Sullivan
Olympic gold medal rower Joseph Sullivan will arrive home in Picton on Sunday afternoon in time for a celebration of his success.
A low-key community party is being held for Sullivan on the foreshore, organised by the Picton Rowing Club and the Marlborough District Council.
Picton Rowing Club captain Keiran Gaudin said last night Sullivan was not the sort of sportsman who wanted his own parade, but he was very happy to sign autographs and have his photo taken with his fans.
The champion rower, who won gold at the London games in the double sculls with Invercargill rower Nathan Cohen, is due on the foreshore about 1pm.
He will be introduced to the crowd from the War Memorial steps and the organisers hope he will be available for autographs and photographs for a couple of hours.
The pair will also be in Christchurch on Friday for the official Olympic homecoming parade, but Sullivan is returning to Marlborough at the weekend.
Mayor Alistair Sowman said Sunday would be the first chance for people in Marlborough to see Sullivan and his gold medal.
“We're very lucky Joseph has been able to get home this quickly given the demands being made on our Olympic rowers," Mr Sowman said.
"But Joseph has made it a priority to get here, not only to share his victory with his wider family and supporters, but also with the public of Marlborough,” he said.
He hoped people from throughout the district would be there to see Marlborough's first Olympic gold medallist.
“There's a real sense of pride in our whole region that Picton could produce one of the top performers at this year's Olympics.”
At the welcome home even in Christchurch on Friday, Sullivan and Cohen will be joined 21 other medallists, including Eric Murray, Lisa Carrington, Mahe Drysdale and Sarah Walker.
New Zealand Olympic Committee spokeswoman Ashley Abbott said shot put champion Valerie Adams would miss the event because she was competing in Europe, and former Christchurch rider Caroline Powell, who won a bronze medal as part of the equestrian team, would not be in the country. Cyclists Jesse Sergent and Sam Bewley, who won bronze in the team pursuit, were not coming because of international team commitments.
"It's an outstanding response from New Zealand's medallists . . . some have changed their plans to come back," she said.
More than 100 of the Olympic athletes will fly into Christchurch on Friday to ride an open-top double-decker bus to the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre in Spreydon for the homecoming.
Abbott said the medallists had agreed that Christchurch deserved to host the event, as the city had been through so much.
The event was to have been held in South Hagley Park but the heavy rain that pelted Christchurch last week has made the park unusable.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said hosting the event was a coup after the devastating blow of losing the Rugby World Cup games last year.
"We are very proud to have been chosen to host the homecoming on behalf of all New Zealand, and we're looking forward to cheering for our heroes in person."
He said the selection recognised what Christchurch was up against. "It's an act of great generosity towards the people of this city.
"We are in the midst of the biggest challenge that we have ever faced. We have a lot to do to get there.
"We have to stay on the course and we are going to deliver a wonderful city," he said.
The team will arrive at the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre at noon for a short ceremony.
After the ceremony, the Olympians will move to nearby Centennial Park to sign autographs, have photos taken, answer questions and compete against fans in various activities, including hockey, volleyball, athletics, football and inflatable boxing.
The Marlborough Express