Olympian Sir Chris Hoy to be awarded freedom of Edinburgh

 

Britain's most successful Olympian Sir Chris Hoy was today awarded the freedom of his home city.

The six-time gold medal-winning cyclist joined other Olympians and Paralympians on an open-top bus parade through Edinburgh before attending a civic reception where he become part of an exclusive club that includes the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Sean Connery and Nelson Mandela who have received the freedom of the Scottish capital.

Sir Chris changed from his Olympic tracksuit that he wore on the bus parade into a traditional kilt for the private ceremony in the Assembly Rooms where he was presented with the honour by Edinburgh Lord Provost Donald Wilson.

He said: "I'm immensely proud, but this award is for all the people who have helped me through the years, from the little seven-year-old racing BMXs to racing for Olympic medals in London, it's been an amazing journey.

"It's quite hard to take it all in, it's an emotional day and one that I will never forget."

The parade is the third celebration Sir Chris has been part of in the last week but he said his home town parade was "more personal and emotional".

"It's very emotional to see just what it means to the public, in particular in your home town, to come back to Edinburgh, my home city, and get this kind of support on a day that's not been that kind to us weather-wise, it's just amazing.

"You can't really put it into words what it means but it's our chance to thank everybody for their support."

Sir Chris was joined on stage by his wife Sara to receive the freedom of the city and former rugby player Gavin Hastings paid tribute to his achievements.

Edinburgh city councillors unanimously voted last month to give the honour to the cyclist. It is granted to people who have distinguished themselves through their work or efforts, or to recognise the respect and high esteem in which they are held by the people of the city.

Sir Chris led the official celebrations for all of Scotland's Olympic and Paralympic athletes in Glasgow on Friday. A parade led more than 50 athletes into George Square where they were introduced one by one to a crowd of around 17,000.

Thousands again turned out in Edinburgh despite heavy rain and Sir Chris took time to sign autographs and talk to the crowd outside the City Chambers before boarding an open top bus that had been painted gold for the occasion.

Moira Duncan, 63, did not mind standing in the rain as she got to shake hands with Sir Chris before he left for the parade.

She said: "It's great to have another parade in Edinburgh 'cos it's where Chris is from and we all just want to let him know how proud we are of him. Imanaged to shake his hand and I just told him 'well done'.

"He's got plenty of medals already but it's nice that he can be given the freedom of the city as it comes from the people and it's not something you can win in a race."

Mark Jamieson, 27, also braved the weather to watch the parade, he said: "Chris Hoy is an absolute legend but I came along today to cheer on all the athletes. The Olympics were great and hopefully the enthusiasm that has built up around all different sports can continue.

Sir Chris was born in the Scottish capital in 1976 and was inspired to take up cycling after watching classic movie ET.

He raced BMX until he was 14-years-old, becoming Scottish Champion and ranking second in Britain and ninth in the world, but he turned his attention to track sprint cycling in 1992 and has never looked back.

Despite the rain the parade started around 2.15pm and took the sportsmen and women from the City Chambers on the Royal Mile to the Assembly Rooms via the Mound and Hanover Street where a post box was painted gold when the cyclist won his first medal of the London 2012 Games.

Meanwhile, a parade was also held in Aberdeen to celebrate Olympians and Paralympians from the north east of the country.

Gold medallists Tim Baillie, Katherine Grainger and Neil Fachie took part in the event this morning which started at a gold post box at the Castlegate in Aberdeen painted in honour of rower Grainger.

The parade was led by the Portlethen and District Pipe Band, followed by a team of torchbearers, Games Makers and volunteers.

Lord Provost George Adam said: "North east athletes have really done Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire proud this summer, regardless of whether or not they brought home medals, and the parade is a great way to publicly recognise their achievements and those of our army of torchbearers, volunteers and Games Makers."

PA

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