Kiwi athletes in favour of a flag change may bring the failed alternative with them to the Rio Olympics, but will be unable to use it in any official capacity.

Rugby heroes Dan Carter and Richie McCaw and Rio-bound Olympians Mahe Drysdale and Eric Murray were among the Kiwi sporting heroes to back a flag change.

But the existing flag defeated the Kyle Lockwood black and blue silver fern design.

In a Newstalk ZB interview with Tony Veitch, to be broadcast today, New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general Keryn Smith said athletes could bring alternative flags to Brazil.


"Sometimes athletes do take various symbols with them but there are strict parameters about what you can do with flags, at the Olympics in particular," she said.

"I think some athletes will certainly be very disappointed, but athletes are motivated by things much more significant."

Most would be focusing on Olympic qualification, she said.

In February, Carter appeared in a short video alongside a host of other high-profile Kiwis encouraging New Zealanders to vote for change. McCaw also made his strong feelings known, including in a social media post. The rugby heroes were subjected to online abuse from some who backed the status quo.

Rally driver Hayden Paddon was also in favour of change, saying there was often confusion between Australia and New Zealand's flags.

"A new flag would give our country a clear identity."

Former world champion cyclist Alison Shanks was "really disappointed". "Travelling around the world, you see what really represents New Zealand, and it really is that silver fern."

The vote was 56.6 per cent to 43.2 per cent for the current national flag in the referendum.