New Year Honours list dominated by Olympic sporting heroes

‘Looking back at the boy who arrived here from Somalia, not speaking any English, I could never have imagined where I would be today,’ says Mo Farah

Harriet Agerholm
Friday 30 December 2016 23:31
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Olympic hero Mo Farah has been awarded a knighthood for services to athletics
Olympic hero Mo Farah has been awarded a knighthood for services to athletics

Sporting heroes dominated the list of those being awarded honours this year, with Mo Farah and Andy Murray receiving knighthoods and Jessica Ennis-Hill becoming a dame.

Gold medal-winning distance runner Farah is awarded a knighthood for services to athletics, while tennis world number one Murray, who also won gold at Rio, gets his knighthood for services to tennis and charity.

Heptathlete Ennis-Hill's award follows her retirement from the sport, which prompted months of public clamour that she be given a damehood.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah becomes a knight in New Year Honours list

Farah said: “I'm so happy to be awarded this incredible honour from the country that has been my home since I moved here at the age of eight.

“Looking back at the boy who arrived here from Somalia, not speaking any English, I could never have imagined where I would be today – it's a dream come true.

“I'm so proud to have had the opportunity to race for my country and win gold medals for the British people, who have been my biggest supporters throughout my career.”

This year sees the greatest number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background recipients in the history of the Order of the British Empire, represented by 9 per cent of the successful candidates.

Yet given that around 14 per cent of the population is from a BAME background, the honours list is still not representative.

Others who will claim the title Sir in the new year include Kinks frontman Ray Davies and veteran comic Ken Dodd, recognised for services to the arts and entertainment and charity, respectively.

Andy Murray, Jess Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah were among those honoured

Also among the 1,197 people honoured is American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who becomes a dame in the diplomatic and overseas list for services to fashion and journalism.

Academy and Tony award-winning actor Mark Rylance is knighted for services to theatre, while Keeping Up Appearances actress Patricia Routledge is made a dame for services to the theatre and charity.

Stage and television actor Tim Pigott-Smith, award-winning actress Helen McCrory, and 40-year-old James Bond star Naomie Harris are appointed OBEs for services to drama.

Thirteen years after her husband, the fottballer David Beckham, was awarded the same honour, Victoria Beckham, is made an OBE for services to the fashion industry. News of the former pop star's accolade leaked earlier in the week, ahead of the official Friday night embargo.

In a year that saw Team GB bring home a record-breaking haul of medals from the Rio Olympics, many athletes have been honoured, and some upgraded after being recognised following the London 2012 Games.

Champion rower Katherine Grainger, the first female Olympian to win five medals at five Games, becomes a dame for services to rowing and charity.

Two married sporting couples have also been honoured, with cycling stars Jason and Laura Kenny being upgraded to CBEs for services to the sport.

Kate Richardson-Walsh receives an OBE, while wife Helen Richardson-Walsh is made an MBE following Great Britain's first women's Olympic hockey gold medal. The rest of the team were also made MBEs for services to the sport.

Max Whitlock, who claimed gold on the pommel and floor, as well as winning an all-around bronze, is honoured with an MBE for services to gymnastics.

He said: “This is a real honour for me.

“It is a great feeling now to see it on the name card – the three letters after my name – and it gives me a lot of motivation.”

The list, which does not only honour new stars of the sporting world, sees Sir Roger Bannister made a Companion of Honour for services to sport.

The 87-year-old became the first man to break the four-minute mile when, aged 25, he clocked three minutes 59.4 seconds in Oxford on 6 May 1954.

However, it is not only those in the limelight who are being honoured.

Awards include a damehood for Professor Elizabeth Anionwu, emeritus professor of nursing, for services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal, and a knighthood for Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, Herchel Smith professor of medicinal chemistry, University of Cambridge.

Women make up more than half of those being honoured, with 603 earning an award.

Future honours lists are set to focus on services and work with children and young people, people who work to encourage social mobility and people who work in enterprise and business. Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined her desire that people who work against all forms of discrimination be recognised.

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