Tue, September 11, 2012
Sports > Popular News > 2012 London Paralympic Games

People fill London streets to honor Olympic and Paralympic athletes

2012-09-11 08:33:56 GMT2012-09-11 16:33:56(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

LONDON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Up to a million people took to the streets of London Monday to honor their heroes in a parade of the TeamGB Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

A total of 800 Olympic and Paralympic athletes took part in the 3.5-kilometer parade, carried by 21 lorries with raised platforms so that the crowds of well-wishers had a better opportunity to see them.

The parade left the Mansion House, the ceremonial center of the ancient City of London, and wound its way past historic sites such as St Paul's Cathedral and Trafalgar Square until it reached the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

Part of the route was down two-lane streets with narrow pavements jammed with onlookers.

But for most of the procession the crowds were able to gather 12-15 deep to cheer on their heroes, who have contributed to two successful Games with record medal hauls in both Paralympics and Olympics.

The success of both teams has thrust dozens of athletes to stardom -- and the crowds were longing to catch sight of their heroes.

Among the top stars in the parade were 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters gold medal winner Mo Farah, whose signature mobot gesture -- putting your arms on your head to form a letter M -- was imitated gleefully by thousands in the crowd as he went past.

Other stars who are now household names in Britain and who wowed the crowd include Sir Chris Hoy, the cyclist who won three gold medals in Beijing followed by another two in London; Paralympian Ellie Simmonds who won two gold in Beijing followed by two gold, a silver and a bronze in London; and cyclist Victoria Pendleton who won gold in Beijing and again in London.

The final leg of the procession -- up the Mall to finish at Buckingham Palace -- was reserved for special guests, such as Olympic Games makers, the volunteers who guided people around the city and checked tickets at venues, emergency services workers, and armed forces personnel, as well as several hundred specially chosen children from schools across London.

The Games Makers were applauded as strongly by the athletes as they applauded back; some athletes even held homemade signs, including ones saying "You Made The Games", and "Thank You Games Makers".

In the parade itself hundreds of Games Makers had been marshalled to bring up the rear, and they were cheered as loudly by the crowd as the athletes.

As the Games Makers went past, hundreds more joined them from among the crowd, climbing over barriers to join their colleagues.

Olympic gold medalist rower Kath Grainger, who with Anna Watkins won gold at her fourth attempt said about the parade in a TV interview, "There were so many wonderful people. It was slow enough that you could make eye contact with people who were genuinely touched and passionate and excited about reliving the Olympics all over again."

She added, "You just think -- wow, how lucky are we. How lucky are we to be athletes at this time, in this country, at a home Games and performing at this level."

London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a speech to the athletes when they arrived outside Buckingham Palace, "You brought this country together. You routed the doubters and for the first time in living memory, you caused Tube passengers to break into spontaneous conversation."

He added, "You showed that success is not just about talent and luck but about grit and determination. 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 create one as well."

British prime minister David Cameron said the Olympics and Paralympics had been "magical", and added, "At the end of the most unbelievably successful Olympics and Paralympics, I just want to say what a golden summer of British sport and what a golden summer it has been for our country."

CROWDS DELIGHTED

Xinhua joined the vast crowd outside St Paul's Cathedral, where some had waited for more than four hours to get the best spot to see their heroes.

As they waited patiently for the parade to pass, their excitement was raised by the sight of police and live-TV helicopters hovering overhead. As the helicopters got closer, the crowd knew that the parade was getting closer too.

And then came the police motorcyclists, followed by policemen and women on horseback. The atmosphere was so relaxed that the passing police motorcyclists and horseriders were happily high-fiving with members of the crowd all the way along the route.

Games maker Henry Mercer, a pensioner from Kent, told Xinhua he was "really happy".

He said he had volunteered for the Games in 2007, and waited a year until he knew he would be accepted.

Henry, who wore his distinctive purple, pink, and orange Games Maker uniform along with thousands of other Games Makers in the crowd, said he had been in the main Olympic Park, as a volunteer. "It was a great experience, I met all sorts of people and now I have some fantastic memories," he said.

Debbie Stickley, from Sussex, said the parade was "brilliant."

Her sister Linda Smith said, "You get so emotional, but what are we going to do now, now that it is over -- it has been fantastic."

Debbie added, "We've got lots of memories and loads of photos. We saw the torch arrive in our home village, and then arrive in London. We travelled into London to soak up the atmosphere but we didn't have any tickets to see the Games."

Anna Smith, from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, said, "We've been waiting more than four hours to see the athletes, but it was worth it."

For Helen Miller the journey had been a little longer, she had come from Stoke-on-Trent in the English Midlands, and maybe more difficult as she was in a wheelchair and getting across London in a chair is hard work.

Helen said she had memories she could keep for the rest of her life, "It was amazing; I have loved every minute of it. I have Olympic fever, still. I went to the Olympic Stadium and was there for the Saturday night when TeamGB won three gold medals in five minutes, and then I watched Victoria Pendleton get a gold medal the next day. I'll never forget it."

Kimberly Filip-Campbell, from the state of Colorado in the United States, said, "I think Great Britain did a great job, a fabulous job. I was here for the Games, we saw the athletics, the women's wheelchair basketball, we saw some of the paralympic marathon runners -- it was just incredible."

The celebration ended with a flypast by aircraft over Buckingham Palace, including the commercial airliner which carried the Olympic torch to London, the RAF Red Arrows jet display team, and other jets and helicopters from the British armed forces.

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