Olympics parade: Freedom of Edinburgh is Sir Chris Hoy‘s biggest honour
IN TYPICAL Scottish fashion, the heavens opened minutes before Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, greeted thousands of fans lining the Royal Mile in Edinburgh ahead of the city’s Olympic and Paralympic victory parade yesterday.
The miserable weather did not wipe the smiles from the faces of either Sir Chris, his fellow athletes or the estimated 30,000 people who to cheer the gold-painted, open-topped bus around the city centre.
The ten athletes, who included silver-medallists canoeist David Florence and Paralympian judo satr Sam Ingram, spoke to fans, signed autographs and posed for photographs at the start and end of the parade.
“It’s a bit emotional to see what it means to the public and in particular your home town,” said Sir Chris. “To come back to Edinburgh, my home, and to get this kind of support on a day that’s not been that kind to us, is amazing.”
The focus of the day was all on Sir Chris, who was also being presented with the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh, a prestigious honour last awarded in 2005 to Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi.
Some 500 guests attended the ceremony and civic reception at the Assembly Rooms in George Street in honour of Sir Chris and his fellow athletes, who also included 800m runner Lynsey Sharp, boxer Josh Taylor, judokan’s Euan Burton, Chris Sherrington, Sally Conway and Sarah Clark and Paralympian swimmer Jim Anderson.
Sir Chris, who went to school and university in Edinburgh, was unusually emotional after being presented with the honour by Lord Provost Donald Wilson following a tribute from rugby legend and fellow Watsonian, Gavin Hastings.
He said: “You hear so many superlatives from the Olympic events, words like amazing and incredible roll off the tongue, so I don’t know what to say about today, other than that this is the biggest honour I’ve ever had bestowed up upon me.”
Speaking after the ceremony, Sir Chris added: “It was just a wonderful day. To have been out in the streets on the open-top bus parade with the rest of the Olympians and Paralympians and then to be here to received the Freedom of the City – it’s not easy to explain just how much it means to me.”
For Mhairi Derby-Pitt, 32, and her parents, Brian, 71, and Mary, 61, from Livingston, watching the parade was worth getting wet for.
“We completely caught the Olympic bug,” said Ms Derby-Pitt. “We were really pleased the torch was coming to Broxburn, and from that point on we were hooked.
“We’re not big television people, but during the Olympics it literally went on first thing. I nearly lost my voice when Chris Hoy won his gold medal.”
One youngster who also caught the Olympic spirit was six-year-old Nicholas Carr, from Edinburgh, who waited outside the Assembly Rooms for a glimpse of Chris Hoy at the end.
“I’ve been watching the Olympics every day,” he said. “Handball’s my favourite sport. If I’m in the Olympics I’d go for handball or football.”
His aunt, Jenny Holligan, 39, brought Nicholas and his 11-year-old sister, Abbie Jamieson, along to celebrate the athletes.
“This kind of event is very important,” she explained. “It means the athletes can give something back to their supporters and we as supporters can give something back to them.”
Her friend, Janet Raith, 43, added: “It’s made us feel proud to be British, and it’s the first time that I’ve felt I could say that with a lot of passion.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east