Thousands turn out as athletes thank the fans who 'made the Games'

 

The streets of London were packed today as hundreds of thousands of well-wishers turned out to cheer Britain's sporting heroes in a last hurrah as the “golden summer of British sport” came to a close.

Olympics and Paralympics stars including Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Ellie Simmonds and Jonnie Peacock proudly wore their medals as they waved to fans from open-top floats which wound their way through streets full of fans.

Around 800 athletes took part in The Greatest Team Parade which passed crowds, dozens deep in places, who became a sea of red, white and blue as they waved Union flags.

Despite the Paralympics coming to a close with a rousing ceremony last night, the celebrations continued today with a carnival-like atmosphere in the city. Pavements were thronged with thousands of people, while others leaned out of windows and from balconies to cheer the sportsmen and women.

Athletes and spectators were also treated to a spectacular flypast which roared over their heads.

RAF aircraft were led by the British Airways jet used to bring the Olympic Flame to the UK at the start of the Games. The flame-coloured Firefly A319 displayed a "thank you" message on its underbelly before the Red Arrows followed, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke in their wake.

The procession, made up of 21 floats grouped in alphabetical order by their sport, started off from Mansion House in the City and made its way through central London, ending up at the Queen Victoria Memorial on The Mall.

The stars of the Olympics' Super Saturday, Mo Farah who won gold in both the 5,000m and 10,000m, heptathlon gold medallist Ennis and long jump champion Greg Rutherford, were in the first three floats with Team GB's cycling stars including Hoy, Jason Kenny, Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton on another.

Speaking from his float, Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, four-times gold medallist Ben Ainslie said: "It's nuts, I've never seen anything like it. I'm proud to be a part of it. The whole nation has done a fantastic job with the Olympic Games and we should be very proud.

"I'm blown away by the amount of support. We've seen it all the way through the Olympics and it's made a huge difference. I'm sure that's why we had our best Olympics ever."

Wheelchair racer David Weir said his haul of four gold medals has not sunk in yet, describing the support he has received from fans as "unbelievable".

He told BBC News: "It's just been an unbelievable 11 days of competition."

Triathlon gold medallist Alistair Brownlee said: "It's amazing that so many people were interested. The best thing for us is to see other people inspired, walking down the street and meeting people who say they want to try triathlon or give running a try."

His brother Jonny, who scooped bronze in the same event, said: "It's absolutely incredible today. To see this many people out here is pretty incredible."

The parade, which included more than 90% of Britain's medal winners, also involved many of the volunteers and Games Makers who walked in between the floats.

Zara Phillips, who won a silver medal in the team eventing, waved to fans from a float carrying the equestrian teams.

She told BBC News: "Unbelievable, to think that everyone's come out for all of us. This is like the whole Games though, you know. That's what made it. The crowd were unbelievable and we are so grateful to them."

Paralympic dressage star Lee Pearson told the channel: "What an amazing Paralympic Games, amazing.

"I am so proud of the British public to come out and watch Paralympic sport and embrace it and get educated about it.

"It's an honour to be an athlete in these Games, it really has been."

Simmonds described the reception they received as "amazing".

But athletes humbly insisted the procession was also there to recognise spectators for their support during the Games.

Before the parade set off, Sir Chris told BBC News: "This isn't really for us. This is for them because they've made the Games. They've made the atmosphere, they've supported the athletes, not just in the venues but through the streets and the pubs, the public venues. It's been incredible.

"So it's our chance to give them a wave and a thank you for all the support they've given us."

Anna Watkins, who won gold in the Olympic double sculls rowing, said: "Seeing smiling faces just wanting to have a look at a medal and have a look at the team going past, it's lovely to be able to actually see the public. Now we can thank them as well, which is lovely for us to be able to do."

As the procession came to an end, Prime Minister David Cameron told the crowd on The Mall: "This is the great British summer that will be remembered in hundreds of years to come.

"You showed us the best face of Britain, who we really are, one United Kingdom, one flag, one celebration. And you showed us all that we can be. All-welcoming, tolerant, vibrant, with a future every bit as exciting and thrilling as our past.

"On behalf of the whole nation, thank you. Thank you to the athletes, to Team GB, to ParalympicsGB. You have given us a golden summer of British sport and you have made us all so proud.

"You have given us memories that we will never forget. The whole country salutes your brilliance."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen