CITY bosses have today finally set a date for honouring Sir Chris Hoy and his fellow Olympians with a victory parade in the heart of the Capital.
• Open-top bus parade for Olympic heroes on Sunday September 16
• Sir Chris Hoy to be awarded freedom of Edinburgh at Assembly Rooms
And in what will be another memorable day for one of the city’s sporting greats, Sir Chris will then be awarded the Freedom of Edinburgh in a private ceremony at the Assembly Rooms on George Street.
The council has faced criticism for taking so long to organise a public celebration of local athletes’ incredible success at the games – as of 10am today it has been 26 days and 15 hours since Sir Chris crossed the finish line to take gold in the keirin and cement his place in history as Britain’s greatest ever Olympian.
Criticism has mounted in recent weeks over delays to organising the parade, with cities such as Sheffield, Leeds and Belfast having already honoured their own Olympic heroes.
And there are likely to be some raised eyebrows over the fact that the Edinburgh celebrations will not take place until two days after the official Olympic parade in Glasgow on September 14.
All of that will no doubt be forgotten on the day itself, however, when thousands of fans are expected to line the parade route in the heart of the city to applaud the success of our home-grown heroes.
As well as the stars of the London 2012 Olympics, the parade will also give the city a chance to celebrate local Paralympic athletes currently competing in London.
And officials have also extended an invitation for local volunteers who helped to make the Games possible to join the party.
The open-top bus will leave from outside the City Chambers at 2.15pm, going up the Royal Mile and turning right on to the Mound.
It will make its way slowly down the hill, past the Agitos, before crossing Princes Street on to Hanover Street, where Sir Chris Hoy’s golden post box stands.
The final leg of the journey will see the bus turning right on to George Street, performing a short loop before heading west to its final destination at around 3pm.
It is understood that Sir Chris and his fellow sports stars will step off the bus to meet and greet the crowd at various points along the parade route.
The six-time gold medal winning cyclist is likely to be mobbed by well-wishers in scenes which will be familiar to him from celebrations following his success at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Then, thousands lined the streets from the Castle Esplanade to Holyrood Palace to cheer Sir Chris and his Olympic teammates after their performances.
This time it will be extra special for Sir Chris, who will become only the fourth person in 20 years to receive the Freedom of Edinburgh – the highest honour the city can bestow.
The Lord Provost will award Sir Chris Hoy the Freedom of the City in the Assembly Rooms’ Music Hall in a private ceremony watched by 500 invited guests and, following speeches and other entertainment, the guests will file through to the Ball Room where the Civic Reception will be held.
The 36-year-old will follow in the footsteps of Sir Sean Connery, who was given the honour in 1991, Nelson Mandela, honoured in 1997 and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the last person to receive the honour, in 2005 .
Speaking of his pride at being given the award, Sir Chris said: “To be awarded the Freedom of Edinburgh is an incredible privilege. I am absolutely delighted and deeply honoured to be recognised in this way by my home city.
“I was born and brought up in Edinburgh and I’ve received so much support from the city in all areas of my life, from school to university and throughout my cycling career.
“I’m very proud to be from Edinburgh and the huge support I’ve received is an integral part of my success.
“In particular I want to mention The City of Edinburgh Racing Club, which was the best amateur track cycling club in the UK when I joined in 1994, and was the first step towards where I am today. “I’m really looking forward to coming home along with my Scottish teammates, so we can say a huge thank you to the public.”
All Edinburgh’s Olympians, including gold medal-winning rower Katherine Grainger, two-time canoeing silver medallist David Florence, judo’s Euan Burton and boxer Josh Taylor, are being contacted to take part in the parade.
And while they have yet to confirm their attendance it is likely most, if not all, will be able to join the party, given how close it is to the official event organised by the Scottish Government.
Paralympic athletes such as sprinter Libby Clegg and her brother, fellow sprinter James Clegg from Musselburgh, footballer Blair Glynn, judo star Sam Ingram and Jim “the Swim” Anderson, from Broxburn are also expected to take part in the celebrations, which will come a week after the end of the Paralympic Games.
And it will be a memorable day for some of the many volunteers from Edinburgh who worked at the Games, as they will get the chance to join their Olympic heroes and enjoy some well-earned thanks from the crowds. It is expected that all eyes will be on Sir Chris, however, who for many people was the star of the London 2012. He was given the honour of carrying the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony and then cemented his status in sporting history with two blistering performances in front of a packed crowd at the Velodrome.
He took home the gold with team-mates Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny as they saw off the challenge of France to claim victory in cycling’s team sprint. And his win in the keirin brought him his sixth gold medal, which, when added to his silver medal won at the 2000 Games in Sydney, gave him a total of seven and made him Britain’s greatest ever Olympic athlete.
Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “This is Edinburgh’s chance to welcome home its Olympic and Paralympic heroes and to honour their outstanding achievements at their respective Games.
“Of course, there will be an extra special welcome for Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, our own Chris Hoy, to whom it will be a great pleasure to award the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.
“It was very much his wish that this day be about celebrating with his team mates and I am hopeful that many of his fellow sportsmen and women will be able to join him on the parade and in the Assembly Rooms.”
Worth the wait for Golds
THE open-top victory parade for the Capital’s Olympic heroes has been a long time coming.
It has been 22 days since the closing ceremony of the London Games and 26 days, 15 hours since Sir Chris Hoy crossed the finish line to win a historic sixth Olympic Gold medal.
While the council stalled on organising a parade – insisting it wanted to wait until after the Paralympics – some of the heroes of the London Games could have achieved incredible feats.
Sir Chris cycled three laps of the 750-metre London Velodrome in just 41 seconds to win the keirin – and if he could have kept up that speed he would have been able to cycle the 24,900 miles around the circumference of the Earth – and still have time to ride from London to Edinburgh and back again.
Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, would have been able to run all the way from the Olympic Village to his home in Kingston, Jamaica, three times, if he had kept up the speed he turned on to take gold in the men’s 100 metres.
And Mo Farah, who delighted the home crowds by taking gold in the 10,000 metres, would have had the time to run 333 marathons – or all the way from London to his birthplace in Somalia and back.