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Welcome Home for the New Zealand Olympic Team

Hon Trevor Mallard
2 October 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until delivery

Welcome Home for the New Zealand Olympic Team

On behalf of the Government and the people of New Zealand, it is my pleasure to welcome you home.

Sydney 2000 was an event that we looked forward to as a nation. It was the closest the Olympic Games will be to New Zealand in our lifetimes.

To our athletes. Well done. You competed and represented New Zealand with pride and dignity.

You put in some gutsy performances. Those of us who were lucky enough to make the trip to Sydney, as well as those who watched the television from home, have some marvellous memories.

Thank you to Les Mills, your chef de mission, and Blyth Tait, your team captain, for the roles you played in looking after our team during the games period. Thank you to Sir David Beattie, Mike Hooper and your team, for organising New Zealand's largest ever contingent to get to an Olympic Games.

The New Zealand 2000 Olympic squad had some magical moments which we rejoiced in; you had some bad luck which we bemoaned; and you had some bitter disappointments – and on those occasions we shared some of your grief.

Post-Olympics it is important that we as a nation rejoice and remember the successes.

To Barbara and Aaron: You showed the World the depth of talent that New Zealand has on the water. Congratulations.

To Mark: You have been under great personal pressure leading up to these games and you still shone through and showed what a great sportsman you are. I commend you for that.

A special congratulations to Rob. We had exceptionally high hopes for you and you came through with the goods. You put in long hours over many years to reach your goal. I'm not sure if we can measure how important you are for New Zealand.

I would like to acknowledge the role that other people play and the sacrifices they make to help athletes achieve. Mums and dads and other family members, partners and children, coaches, administrators, sponsors, friends and fans who come and cheer even when the rest of the world is not watching. They all deserve our appreciation.

In the last two weeks, all our athletes have competed against the best in the world. You have held your place among them, and you can hold your heads up high. There have been national records and personal bests as well as medals. Congratulations.

Some people are disappointed with the medal count. Remember, nearly half the countries that compete have never won a medal. That we did really well on a per capita basis. That it has taken Australia 24 years and $25 million for each gold to get where they are now.

If we want that sort of success then some things must happen. Taxpayers must decide they are prepared to put cash in. New Zealand corporates will have to back potential winners. But most important of all, every New Zealander must examine what we can do as individuals to make our contribution. Whether it is coaching some kids at school or running a junior club – we all have to do our bit.

It will take an extraordinary effort, but we are an extraordinary country.

Finally, some athletes are retiring after these games. I wish you well in whatever endeavours you choose to pursue next. Some of you will continue working hard and have Manchester or Athens as a goal. I wish you well for that.

Thank you for the experience.

ENDS

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