Cantabrians will have the chance to meet their sporting heroes when Christchurch hosts the New Zealand Olympic team's welcome home next week.
More than 100 New Zealand Olympians, including most of the 27 medal winners, will fly into Christchurch and then ride an open-top double-decker bus to Hagley Park for the welcome home on August 24.
The team will enter Hagley Park at noon to the sounds of the New Zealand Army Band before a short ceremony, including speeches by Mayor Bob Parker and New Zealand Olympic chef de mission Dave Currie.
After the official ceremony, the athletes will be available to sign autographs, pose for photos and answer questions.
Some athletes will play against fans in sports, including hockey, volleyball and athletics, while others will visit fans at private events, including at schools, hospitals, care facilites and businesses.
There will also be competitions, interactive games and live music.
Parker said Christchurch could take great pride in being selected as host by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
''I know many Christchurch fans have been following the Games and have been there cheering as these athletes have enjoyed their proudest moments,'' he said.
''We are very proud ourselves to have been chosen to host the homecoming on behalf of all New Zealand, and we're looking forward to cheering our heroes in person.''
The Christchurch City Council cannot confirm which athletes will go to what event.
If it rains, the event will be held at the Christchurch Netball Centre in Hagley Park.
Double Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams will miss the homecoming because she is competing in Europe.
Adams was told via a phone call from Currie today that her Belarusian rival, Nadezya Ostapchuk, had tested positive to a banned steroid.
Cue all manner of emotions - shock, joy, disbelief, anger, and no-one to share the moment with.
As she arrived at the home of her coach Jean-Pierre Egger, it all spilt out.
''When I got here [to Egger's house] I burst into tears as his wife opened the door,'' Adams said.
''She looked worried and asked why I was crying so much. I belted out 'we won, we won the gold medal', and I just fell into JP's arms and just shared a moment.
''We shared a moment of distress and disappointment on the sixth of August, but today we shared a moment of happiness. It's overwhelming.''
If Adams felt anger towards Ostapchuk for robbing her of glory atop the podium, she bit her lip.
''It's a pity it came out a week later, but she's caught now,'' she said.
''It was her moment, but that's the only moment she'll be able to live now because it's all taken away from her. I don't want to waste any energy thinking about how I feel about her.
''I'm overwhelmed that I've won the gold medal and very humbled by all the people who have stood by me. The support of the public has been absolutely fantastic.''
It boosted New Zealand's gold medal tally to six, amid a total of 13 medals which equalled their best haul from Seoul in 1988.
The International Olympic Committee confirmed that Ostapchuk had tested positive to metenolone and demanded the Belarus Olympic Committee hand back her gold medal.
She was the 12th competitor to test positive for a banned substance at the Games but the first to be stripped of a medal. Samples provided the day before the shot put competition and immediately after her winning performance both tested positive.
In what was considered a two-horse race last Monday, Ostapchuk threw 21.36 metres to Adams' 20.70m.
Eggers made a telling ''no comment'' after the event, which suggested there were suspicions over Ostapchuk, whose distances increased markedly in the leadup to London. But Adams had tried to believe the suspicions were not true.
''Two months before the Olympics she was throwing massive throws in Belarus,'' she said.
''But I never wanted to assume and I never have. Other people have, and commented about her looks and how she threw.
''At the end of the day it happened and I'm just grateful that the system put in place to make the sport clean is working.
''I just wish that my family that were in London were able to see me and my medal on top of the podium and hear the national anthem and enjoy the moment.''
With Ostapchuk's disqualification, Russia's Evgeniia Kolodko was upgraded to silver and China's Lijiao Gong to the bronze.
Adams revealed she felt sympathy for Athletics New Zealand official Raylene Bates who was named by Currie as the person who botched the official entry form, which almost saw Adams excluded from the competition.
Bates did not tick certain boxes on the athletes' starting confirmation forms, and only some last-minute negotiations between the NZOC and the IOC allowed Adams to line up. She admitted afterwards it had badly affected her preparation.
''What happened has happened,'' Adams said.
''As I always said, it was very unfortunate that happened to me. A mistake was made and I think things have been put in place for it not to happen again.
''Raylene and I have spoken since then and she's apologised and I feel for her. It wasn't my intention to publicly name her; someone else did that.''
Adams hoped she could receive her gold medal in some kind of public ceremony and hear the anthem played in New Zealand, but that was for the NZOC and her manager, Nick Cowan, to arrange.
She did not have long to celebrate as she was scheduled to train 30 minutes after speaking to the media, in preparation for another competition in Stockholm on Thursday.
Adams contacted her family immediately to share the news and planned to catch up with some of them for a celebratory dinner.
''I'm letting this all sink in because it's so surreal. Already I've got 50 text messages from people congratulating me and are so happy with the result,'' she said.
''Right now it's a lot for me to take in. I missed the moment in the stadium to have my medal presented to me, but the facts have come out and I'm an Olympic champion back to back.
''I'm very grateful that I achieved my goal, and even though it's come a week later it's better than never coming. I'm very delighted and overwhelmed.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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