Thousands of fans honour our Olympic heroes
7:00am Tuesday 11th September 2012 in By Jonathan Redhead, Ilkley/Otley Reporter
Well-wishers packed the streets of London to cheer Britain’s sporting heroes, including stars from the Bradford district, as they paraded through the capital yesterday.
And former Bradford Grammar School students, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, who claimed gold and bronze in the triathlon, admitted they were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowds that greeted the athletes as they waved from open top floats.
Speaking from his float, Alistair Brownlee said: “It’s amazing that so many people were interested.
“The best thing for us is to see other people inspired, walking down the street and meeting people who say they want to try triathlon or give running a try.”
His brother Jonny, said: “It’s absolutely incredible. To see this many people out here is pretty incredible.
“We got a bit of a surprise with how many people turned up to our event and how many people turned up today, it’s pretty, pretty impressive.”
Other stars including Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Hannah Cockcroft and Jonnie Peacock also proudly wore their medals as the floats wound their way through streets full of fans.
Despite the Paralympics coming to a close with a rousing ceremony on Sunday night, the celebrations continued yesterday with a carnival-like atmosphere in the city.
About 800 athletes travelled on 21 floats, grouped in alphabetical order by their sport.
The stars of the Olympics’ Super Saturday – Mo Farah, who won gold in both the 5,000m and 10,000m, heptathlon gold medallist Ennis and long jump champion Greg Rutherford – were in the first three floats, which departed from Mansion House in the City shortly after 1.30pm following a fanfare of trumpets.
The crowds, dozens deep in places, were a sea of red, white and blue as fans waved Union flags at the passing floats.
Many also held up home-made banners, with some donning patriotic fancy dress for the occasion.
But athletes humbly insisted the procession was also there to recognise spectators for their support during the Games.
Ahead of the parade setting off, Hoy said: “This isn’t really for us, this is for them because they’ve made the Games.
“They’ve made the atmosphere, they’ve supported the athletes, not just in the venues, but through the streets, and the pubs, the public venues, it’s been incredible.
“So it’s our chance to give them a wave and a thank you for all the support they’ve given us.”
Ennis also said the parade was a chance for the athletes to thank the public.
She said: “We’ve had so much support through the past few weeks, every session was filled with cheering British fans, so now to come out and see another huge crowd and thank everyone is going to be really special for all of us.”
The athletes were also dressed in red, white and blue as they wore their Team GB and ParalympicsGB outfits and waved Union flags as they passed supporters who loudly clapped and cheered.
Hoy, who was on a float with the rest of Team GB’s cycling stars including Jason Kenny, Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton, smiled and held up his two gold medals as fans cheered.
The victory parade travelled along Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street towards St Paul’s Cathedral, and was due to continue along Fleet Street, past Aldwych and into The Strand, before reaching Trafalgar Square.
Many of the sports stars, including Tom Daley and Trott, could be seen taking pictures of the crowd on their mobile phones.
Peter Wilson, Olympic gold medallist in double trap shooting, said: “It has been insane, absolutely insane. I’ve never been so busy in my life but it’s been amazing-busy, I’ve loved every minute of it.
“I was hoping for a medal but to win gold at home was a bit of a pipe dream. There’s a lot of pressure with it and I was just hoping to do my best to be honest.
“It (the parade) is going to be amazing, it’s going to be so, so special. Seeing so many people turning out here in this small area just here, it’s incredible.”
Aerial shots of The Greatest Team Parade showed the pavements thronged with thousands of people, while others leaned out of windows and from balconies to cheer the athletes.
The parade was announced with a fanfare as it passed the Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street, where it reached the City of Westminster and left the City of London.
Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor, four-times gold medallist Ben Ainslie, described the reception as “awe-inspiring”.
He had to shout to be heard above the noise from the screaming crowds as he told BBC News: “I’m blown away by the support, it’s amazing.”
Wheelchair racer David Weir said his haul of four gold medals had not sunk in yet, describing the support he has received from fans as “unbelievable”.
He told the channel: “It’s just been an unbelievable 11 days of competition.”
Asked about the success of the Games, London 2012 chairman Lord Coe told BBC News: “I’ve never doubted it because the people that have helped us do this have been proud and passionate and it doesn’t matter where they live, whether it’s in northern Scotland or Cornwall, people have got this.
“We wouldn’t doubt that they’d be out ten-deep today, they were out ten-deep after we came back from Beijing and that didn’t even take place in our own backyard.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to see sport in this country in the same way again.”
Ainslie, who won gold in the finn class, added: “It’s nuts, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m proud to be a part of it, the whole nation has done a fantastic job with the Olympic Games and we should be very proud.
“I’m blown away by the amount of support, we’ve seen it all the way through the Olympics and it’s made a huge difference.
“I’m sure that’s why we had our best Olympics ever.”
The parade, which included more than 90 per cent of Britain’s medal winners, also involved many of the volunteers and Games Makers who walked in between the floats.