PHOTOS: NZ Olympic team welcomed home

(PHOTOS: Gia Garrick, Sam Hewat, Lynley Bilby and Tina Trenkner-Meade)

UPDATED 8.49AM: Fans have flooded The Cloud in downtown Auckland in the hopes of mingling with their favourite Olympians.

An excited crowd gathered at Auckland International Airport to welcome home New Zealand's most successful Olympic athletes this morning.

It was a long wait for most of them as flight NZ31 from Buenos Aires was delayed by more than an hour. 

Gold medalists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke entered first, with Burling wearing a cloak worn by team flagbearers.

"It's really nice to be home," Tuke said.

School children in uniform got up early to be first to welcome back the sportsmen and women, who arrived just before 6am.

Jenny and Paul Gould and their three-year-old granddaughter Taylah travelled from Cambridge to welcome the silver medal-winning women's sevens captain Sarah Goss home today.

Little Taylah is wearing her cousin's official training top to greet her when she gets off the plane.

Father of swimmer Bradley Ashby described how he "cried like a baby" watching his son swim at the Rio games. Gregor Ashby said it was a dream come true for his 20-year-old son who got through to the semifinals and competed against US swim star Michael Phelps.

"He's been dreaming about it for the last 10 years," said Mr Ashby.

Fan Megan Fahaivalu watched the Olympics  for the past fortnight and has turned up to see the team come home this morning.

" I've never come out for a sports team before but I do like the Olympics and they did particularly well this year."

Laura Collins is there to welcome home her boyfriend, Men's Black sticks defender Nic Woods,  for the first time in four weeks.

"I'm so proud of what he's achieved and I can't wait to see him," she said.

Number one fan Ula Tofaeono turned up draped in costume fashioned from two silver fern flags and a specially decorated floral hat to welcome home the team.