Calls for Scottish Olympians to be honoured at public parade

Calls have been raised for a more public homecoming for Scotland's Olympians, who have enjoyed their most successful overseas Games in history, as it is revealed that an official event is to be held with room for just 400 people.

Scottish cyclist Callum Skinner poses with his silver medal in the Rio Olympic Velodrome. Picture: PA
Scottish cyclist Callum Skinner poses with his silver medal in the Rio Olympic Velodrome. Picture: PA

Scots such as Andy Murray, Callum Skinner and Katherine Grainger on Team GB have won 12 medals so far with two more days of competition remaining in Rio – only one short of the 13 won at London 2012 and well ahead of the seven won at Sydney in 2000.

However, sportscotland has announced that homecoming celebrations for Scotland’s Olympians, Paralympians and support staff at the Games will take place in Oriam, Scotland’s new national performance centre at Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, on 28 September.

The main hall seats just 400, with the proceedings to be streamed live on sportscotland social media channels to ensure that the wider public has the “opportunity to enjoy proceedings”.

This is in direct contrast to 2012 when thousands of people turned out in both Glasgow and Edinburgh to pay tribute to their sporting heroes such as double cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy and gold-winning Paralympic cyclist Neil Fachie.

Senior Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “These have been remarkably successful Olympics for Team GB, in which Scots athletes have played a very major part.

“It would be fitting to have a homecoming event for our athletes that properly reflects the success that has been achieved and it would be hoped that something could be organised which would be as ambitious as in 2012.”

This has been echoed by Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, who said that “for the greatest performance at an away games we should build a public celebration”.

He added: “Let’s have a public parade so that everyone, from all backgrounds, can celebrate with our Paralympians and Olympians.

“Whether it’s held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen or even Auchtermuchty, we should show our champions what their achievement has meant for the country.”

All of Scotland’s Olympians and Paralympians are invited to the post-Games celebrations next month at Heriot-Watt.

Commenting on the plans for the homecoming celebrations, sportscotland chief executive Stewart Harris said: “It has been a remarkable performance from the Scots to win 12 medals and have 15 medallists. This represents the most successful overseas Games for Scots on Team GB and everyone in Scotland can be very proud of their success.

“The homecoming celebrations will provide a fitting tribute to the Scottish Olympians and Paralympians, and where better to have the post-Games event than at Oriam, Scotland’s brand new, world-class national performance centre.”

In 2012 the Glasgow route took athletes from the west end to a rally in George Square.

The city council said the event was to mark Glasgow’s role as an Olympic host city in staging some of the football events. A council spokesman said it had no plans for a similar celebration this year.

Sir Chris Hoy also joined 2012 Olympians with Edinburgh connections on an open-top bus parade through the capital before he received the freedom of the city.

The city council said it did not plan any repeat event.

A spokeswoman said: “Sportscotland is organising a national homecoming event in Edinburgh, which we are fully supporting.

“At the same time, plans are being developed for the Lord Provost to congratulate all Edinburgh athletes on their fantastic achievements.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “With nearly two days’ competition still to come, this is already among the most successful Olympics for Scottish athletes, and of course we have the Paralympics to come. All of Scotland’s Team GB sportsmen and women have done the country proud. I hope their performances will help to inspire the next generation of Scottish Olympians and Paralympians.”

In a message to the UK’s Olympians, Prime Minister Theresa May said the country had been “filled with pride” watching their success.

She promised “a celebration fit for heroes” and said the government was committed to funding elite sport.

Olympic rowing champion Sir Matthew Pinsent had stoked rumours that a victory parade would not take place, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged a “wonderful celebration” in London for returning athletes as Manchester was chosen to host the official procession. “Our athletes have performed heroics in Rio and their exploits have gripped the entire nation,” Mr Khan said.

Andy Murray was the fourth Scot to win gold after cyclists Skinner and Katie Archibald and rower Heather Stanning.

Skinner also claimed a silver medal, as did rowers Polly Swann and Karen Bennett, canoeist David Florence and rugby players Mark Bennett and Mark Robertson.

Rower Grainger’s silver made her Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, while swimmer Duncan Scott won two silver medals in relays, the first with fellow Scots Stephen Milne and Dan Wallace.

Sally Conway took bronze in judo.

Murray defended the tennis gold he won in 2012 with victory over Juan Martin del Potro but it is unclear if he would be able to attend the athletes’ parade in London as he prepares for the US Open, which begins on 29 August.

Meanwhile the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)has announced that the Paralympic Games will take place as planned next month, but faces major budget cuts as Rio’s organising committee has not raised sufficient funding.

The cuts will be made to venues, the workforce and transport. Delayed travel grants will now be paid to athletes, but ten countries may struggle to get teams to Rio.

“Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” said IPC president Sir Philip Craven.

With 19 days to the start of the Games, the IPC said Rio’s organising committee has not raised enough money to fund the Paralympics.

This is due to Brazil’s struggling economy and the fact that only 12 per cent of available tickets have so far been sold for the Games, which start on 7 September.

As a result organisers were three weeks late in paying £7 million in travel grants to help athletes get to Rio. Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes has secured an additional £36m of funding and £24m in sponsorship from state-run companies after an injunction was lifted that had blocked further state aid for the Games.

Craven added: “These cuts are on top of the ones we, together with the International Olympic Committee, have already made in the last 12 months and are likely to impact nearly every stakeholder attending the Games.”