• London Olympics 2012

London pays tribute to heroes of the Games

ESPN staff
September 10, 2012

Central London ground to a standstill on Monday as an estimated one million fans flooded the streets to pay tribute to Great Britain's Olympians and Paralympians as they paraded through the city towards Buckingham Palace.

With the curtain falling on London 2012 at the Paralympic closing ceremony on Sunday, around 800 athletes waved to the crowds from 21 floats, with more than 90 per cent of Team GB's medallists appearing on the three-mile route.

Mo Farah, Sir Chris Hoy and Jessica Ennis were all present, alongside Jonnie Peacock, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir.

"It has been an incredible year," said Ennis, who earlier revealed she will be sticking with the heptathlon rather than making the switch to hurdles. "To end on this huge high here in London with this amazing team is incredible."

Among those missing out were tennis gold medallist Andy Murray, who plays in the US Open final against Novak Djokovic on Monday, and time trial champion Bradley Wiggins, currently competing in the Tour of Britain.

"We've got our own parade to do this week so, you know, this is our day job," Wiggins said. "We don't have the beauty of having a year off now because the cycling calendar is still going on. It would have been nice to have been there with the rest of the team, but I think we're all enjoying it this week."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson paid tribute to the "unbelievable spectacle of sport" hosted by the city over the past six weeks, and was thrilled to be part of another ceremony that harked back to the origins of the Olympics. "In the ancient world, crowds would line the streets to welcome their triumphant Olympians home," he said.

After passing the masses in Trafalgar Square, the parade passed down the Mall and ended in front of Buckingham Palace, where the plane that carried the Olympic flame to the UK flew overhead with the message 'Thank You' inscribed on the undercarriage before the Red Arrows performed a flypast.

"This just sums up 36 years of my life," said Richard Whitehead, who claimed gold in the T42 200m. "So many people have come out to embrace what the real spirit of sport is."

Hoy, who became Britain's most successful Olympian when he collected his fifth and sixth gold medals in the Velodrome, dropped hints that while London will be his last Olympic Games he hopes to carry on until 2014, when the Commonwealth Games arrive in Glasgow.

"If you have to end an Olympic career anywhere this is the way to do it," Hoy said. "A number of athletes are retiring today in terms of their Olympic careers. I think I am going to try to continue on to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It is a bit greedy but if I can have a home Olympics and a home Commonwealth Games that would be great."

After Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Association, and Prime Minister David Cameron offered their congratulations, Boris Johnson stole the show with his final tribute to "the most successful British athletes this country has ever had", and "my word there are a lot of you".

"You showed that success is not just about talent and luck but about grit and determination," Johnson said. "You produced such a combination of tears and joy on the sofas of Britain that you not only inspired a generation, but you probably helped to create one as well.

"You brought athletics home, you brought home rowing, you brought home cycling, you brought home ping pong but above all you brought home the truth about this country - which is that there is no limit to what can be achieved."

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