In 1920 the first New Zealand Olympic Team marched under the New Zealand flag in Antwerp, Belgium. Four athletes competed in black singlets with the silver fern emblem hand-sewn over their hearts. The fern continues to inspire New Zealanders of today, as it has done for a hundred years. It will do so again, at Tokyo 2020.
New Zealand’s Olympic history began a little earlier, in 1908 at the London Games, when the New Zealand athletes were part of an Australasian team. The emblem on their shirts bore a tiny kiwi and silver ferns beneath an emu and kangaroo. While we were yet to stand alone as Aotearoa, for the first time an Olympic medal was awarded to a New Zealand athlete, Harry Kerr, proudly wearing the silver fern.
For more than 100 years, over a thousand Olympians have competed, providing memorable moments, triumphs, pioneering efforts, near misses and hard-luck stories. The games have survived through world wars, boycotts, controversy, and although delayed, they are on track to continue beyond the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The fern, worn in that very first Olympic Games, continues to connect and inspire our athletes today - to where they come from, to our people and to our land and sea, Aotearoa New Zealand.