50,000 welcome Scots Olympic heroes home

A crowd of 50,000 turned out in the Capital to welcome Scotland's Olympic heroes home today.

Gold-winning medal cyclist Chris Hoy was joined by fellow Scots medallists Ross Edgar, Katherine Grainger and David Florence for an open-top bus parade down the Royal Mile.

The historic street was packed with flag-waving well-wishers as the bus made its way from Edinburgh Castle, where a reception for the Olympians was held, down to Holyrood Park.

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"It means so much to be home but also to see how warm the reception has been and how much interest there has been," Hoy said today.

"We had no idea in the village just what was going on.

"You get the odd text message and e-mail saying it's crazy, but you just don't take it in."

Hoy, 32, became the first Briton for 100 years to win three golds at a single Olympics, having previously hit gold in Athens four years ago.

The athletes waved to the crowds from the top deck of the Saltire-clad bus, with Edinburgh native Hoy picking out friends and relatives below.

Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb said the parade through the heart of the Capital had been a "staggering success".

He added: "Everyone who came out today had a fantastic time.

"Many more people came along than we had expected and it was perfect opportunity to welcome the medallists back – I think people will be talking about it for quite a long time.

"The huge turnout at the Royal Mile is a sign of how proud Edinburgh people are of our athletes and of the massive impact that Chris Hoy has made on the global stage."

The council later estimated 50,000 people had turned out.

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Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who greeted the athletes at the Castle. She referred to a huge multi-storey poster of Hoy that has been erected on Lothian Road, with him holding a bike above his head in front of Edinburgh Castle and the words "King of Scotland" emblazoned along the bottom.

She said: "I don't think there's anybody in Scotland who would disagree with that title right now – you are absolutely amazing."

Edgar, 25, who clinched silver in the men's keirin behind Hoy, described winning the medal as "the biggest thing that's ever happened in my life".

He went on: "Just to be in the same era as Chris, it's an amazing thing."

Rower Grainger, 32, picked up her third silver medal in three consecutive Olympics.

Asked whether she would be competing in the London 2012 Games, she said: "It's only two days since Beijing so it's quite early to make any decisions.

"Anyone who's been to an Olympics would agree it's the most inspirational, exciting thing to be part of."

Canoeist Florence, 26, spoke of the moment he took a silver medal in the men's slalom.

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"The run went fairly well fortunately in the final. We came to the bottom and crossed the line and that was it," he said.

"That was ten years of pressure over."