An electrifying powhiri welcomed Sir Peter Snell to Te Papa this morning, to honour his gifts to the national collection.

The collection of medals, trophies, and a running shoe, were carried in to the national museum as a karakia was sung.

But none of it might have happened without the problems two years ago, when Te Papa bid $122,500 for one of Sir Peter's old singlets, which turned out to be fake.

Sir Peter Snell, his wife, two daughters, and two granddaughters flew into New Zealand especially for today's exhibit opening.

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His donation of 14 items from his personal collection is considered taonga, with the museum saying today's ceremony was about honouring Sir Peter's generosity.

Around 300 people attended including MPs, representatives from NZ Sports, and prefects from Mount Albert Grammar School, Sir Peter's former school.

Carrying in the items Olympian Peter Snell donated to the national museum. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa
Carrying in the items Olympian Peter Snell donated to the national museum. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa

Sir Peter admitted the welcome had left him feeling emotional.

He apologised to the crowd, telling them the karakia particularly overwhelmed him.

"This [donation] has allowed me to feel that New Zealanders know I love this country, and this is proof of it.

"I'm totally touched by this whole experience."

He said he would never have thought to make the donation if it wasn't for a high-profile mistake by Te Papa.

The museum bid on one of Sir Peter's old running singlets in 2015, believing it had been worn in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

But the bid was cancelled when the singlet was revealed to be a fake.

"I'm honoured that they were interested," Sir Peter said.

"I wouldn't have known, if they hadn't spent all that money on the singlet. So once I knew about that, I made this offer.

"I was stunned that amount of money would have been considered appropriate, I really was.

"I mean, come on, this stuff is not worth that."

Among his donations was the right shoe he wore while winning gold at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

He said the left shoe was already in use, as an athletics trophy for Bay of Plenty girls.

"I did see it a few years ago, so it's still around."

Sir Peter was then presented with pounamu from Te Papa, to thank him for the donation.

Peter Snell's gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics, donated to Te Papa. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa
Peter Snell's gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics, donated to Te Papa. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa
Peter Snell's gold medal from the Rome Olympics, donated to Te Papa. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa
Peter Snell's gold medal from the Rome Olympics, donated to Te Papa. Photo / Te Papa Tongarewa