NZ Olympic team celebrate Waitangi Day in tense Pyeongchang

New Zealand's Winter Olympics team is marking Waitangi Day in chilly conditions.

They're enjoying a low-key build-up to the games as controversy swirls around them about North Korea and Russia's participation.

The New Zealand team pursuit speed skating team medalled at the world championships in Pyeongchang in 2017, and they're in with a real chance for a podium finish next week.

"It's always an honour to strap on the fern and represent New Zealand," says team member Peter Michael.

"I'd always like to hope that we've got the backing and the support back home."

Teammate Shane Dobbin says the skaters are well prepared. 

"Obviously everyone tries to go out there and do New Zealand proud, so we're just hoping that everyone gets on board and follows us." 

In typical Kiwi style they've enjoyed flying under the radar, and it's been easy to do so at an Olympic Games with such a tense geopolitical climate.

While North Korea has sent athletes to the games, it will also hold a major military parade on the eve of the opening ceremony. 

Sixty-thousand security personnel have been deployed at the games, and are training for all possible threats, from a frontal assault to hostage taking. 

Practice scenarios included "terrorists" ramming a vehicle into the Olympic Village, a chemical bomb exploding in a rubbish bin and a drone carrying explosives that had to be shot out of the sky.

Satellite photos have showed a build-up of North Korean forces in Pyongyang, the military state's capital.

US Vice President Mike Pence is on his way to the Games. He's open to meeting North Korean officials but preparing to take a hard line, with the White House already warning South Korea needs to be wary that Pyongyang is using the Olympics for its own propaganda. 

Accompanying the US Vice President will be the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is treading a delicate line, with President Thomas Bach highlighting the positives of the situation.

"The Olympic spirit has brought two sides together that for too long were divided by mistrust and animosity."

There are more pressing concerns at the Games themselves for officials here. The IOC refused to invite 15 Russian athletes and coaches whose lifetime bans were overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"The privilege to be invited requires more than just the absence of a sanction, so we have not invited them," says Mr Bach.

Russia is appealing the decision. 

Organisers in Pyeongchang are desperate for the politics to end and the spectacle to begin. 



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