IT’S been rather a long time coming, but at last Edinburgh is on its marks, is definitely set and ready to go, for a glittering tribute to our amazing sports stars.
The countdown has begun to what promises to be a fabulous chance to wave flags, cheer and generally well up with pride at the incredible athletes whose Olympic and Paralympic performances took our breath away.
Tens of thousands of enthusiastic well- wishers are expected the line the route between the City Chambers in the Royal Mile and the Assembly Rooms in George Street on Sunday to watch an open-top gold-painted bus – dubbed the “bling bus” – carry our super sports stars on a fantastic victory parade. And pride of place will, of course, go to Britain’s greatest Olympian, velodrome hero Sir Chris Hoy.
Once at the Assembly Rooms, he will become only the sixth living person to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh – an event which may well rival the tear-jerking moment the cycling star charged over the finishing line in the keirin at London 2012, to win his sixth gold medal.
The tribute parade takes place two days after today’s official Scottish victory parade in Glasgow, and following mounting criticism that other cities’ had organised public tributes to their sporting stars within days of the closing ceremony.
All that will be forgotten at 2pm on Sunday, however, when crowds gather for celebrations to begin at the City Chambers. There, Sir Chris, fellow Olympians and Paralympians will pass through a top hat and tail guard of honour provided by The Society of High Constables of Edinburgh before pausing to meet some of the crowd and sign autographs.
And while Hearts fans Sir Chris may have been happy enough to board a maroon and white bus from Lothian Buses’ stock, this one has been given special all-gold livery in honour of the medal winner’s incredible achievement.
The fastest man on two wheels will find himself among the slowest, as the bus proceeds to crawl at a snail’s pace along the Royal Mile to ensure the crowd has a chance to pay full tribute to all the sporting stars on board.
The bus will then turn right on to The Mound and make its way towards Princes Street and then Hanover Street. It will swing right on to George Street, where spectators will have a double chance to cheer on their sporting heroes as the vehicle performs a “lap of honour” loop before heading west towards its final destination, the Assembly Rooms, at approximately 2.40pm.
There, another guard of honour will welcome them – a team of Olympic torch bearers dressed in their distinctive white and gold tracksuits, golden torches held aloft.
Once inside the Assembly Rooms, Sir Chris – watched by wife Sarra and proud parents David and Alison – will receive the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh from Lord Provost Donald Wilson. Special guests will include personalities who have supported and mentored him during his cycling career. All the athletes will then be guests of honour at a civic reception.
Special areas have been set aside on the route to help cater for spectators with a disability, at Mercat Cross on the High Street, at the entrance to The Mound precinct and just west of the Assembly Rooms in George Street.
Parking restrictions and road closures will be in place, with some streets closing to traffic from approximately 1pm until 4pm. The event rounds off another important week for Sir Chris – yesterday he was named the first official ambassador for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He said: “The Commonwealth Games is a special event for me. I have fantastic memories of competing for Scotland in the Games on three separate occasions, especially winning my first major championship gold medal at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games.
“Following an incredible Olympics in London, I’m proud to lend my support to the next great sporting event on home soil.”
2.00pm: Sir Chris Hoy, other Olympians and Paralympians leave City Chambers to board open-top bus on High Street
2.15pm: The bus will leave the City Chambers, going up the Royal Mile and turning right on to the Mound. It will make its way down the hill, before crossing Princes Street on to Hanover Street. It will then turn right on to George Street, performing a short loop before heading west towards the Assembly Rooms.
2.40pm:The bus will stop short of the Assembly Rooms, allowing the athletes a further opportunity to mix with the crowds.
2.55pm: Sir Chris and other athletes will enter the Assembly Rooms for Freedom of the City ceremony (at 3pm), followed by Civic Reception.
Latest honour for sir chris
IT is Edinburgh’s most exclusive club, currently just five members strong and each with their own remarkable reason for being there. But on Sunday, the Freedom Five will become an even more ‘Special Six’, when Britain’s most successful
Olympian Sir Chris Hoy is awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.
He will join The Queen, who received the honour in 1947 when she was still Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, awarded two years later. It was a further four decades before the next honour was given – to Sir Sean Connery in 1991, at a packed Usher Hall.
When Nelson Mandela received the honour in 1997, it was behind closed doors in his hotel room. And political campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City in 2005 in her absence while under house arrest in Burma.
Around 400 guests, including Sir Chris’s family and sporting mentors, will see him receive a Freedom Scroll paying tribute to his “exceptional Olympic achievements” from Lord Provost Donald Wilson. Children from Sir Chris’s former school, George Watson’s College, will perform a song specially penned for the event. They will be joined by young musicians from Edinburgh Schools Jazz Band and children from the Big Project Choir, whose moving rendition of Flower of Scotland featured in the London 2012 opening ceremony.
All aboard for magical history tour
So who’ll be on board the golden ‘bling bus’ for the victory parade?
Man of the moment Sir Chris Hoy will be easy to spot – he’s the one with all those glittering gold medals. He’ll have a familiar face from his childhood alongside – canoeing silver medalist David Florence grew up on the same street. It’s hoped gold medal-winning rower Katherine Grainger, a member of St Andrew Boat Club, will swap her boat for the bus, along with runner Lynsey Sharp, daughter of sprinter Cameron Sharp, who made it to the semi-finals of the 800m. Prestonpans lightweight boxer Josh Taylor will be joined by Edinburgh born judo trio, Euan Burton, Royal Marine Chris Sherrington and Sally Conway, along with Sarah Clark.
Also on the bus will be Jim ‘The Swim’
Anderson, from Broxburn, one of Britain’s most decorated Paralympic swimmers with 17 medals since first appearing at Barcelona in 1992. Fellow Paralympic swimmer James Clegg will be on board with sister Libby. She raced to silver on the track in the T12 100m less than an hour after he won bronze in the pool. Other Paralympians who may join the parade are archer Murray
Elliot from Bo’ness, bronze medal winning swimmer Sean Fraser, East Lothian footballer Blair Glynn and judoka Sam Ingram, who won a silver medal.