SCOTLAND’S greatest Olympian Sir Chris Hoy will be granted the freedom of Edinburgh at an event in the city within the coming weeks.
Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall is believed to be the favourite to stage the ceremony when the record-breaking cyclist will become the first Scot to receive the honour in more than 20 years.
The Scottish Government is understood to have offered the city council the use of the Castle after choosing to stage an official “homecoming” parade for the country’s Olympic and Paralympic stars in Glasgow. Council sources say they hope to stage the freedom of Edinburgh ceremony for the six-times gold-medal winner “well before” the Glasgow event on 14 September.
Plans are also being drawn up for an open-top bus parade and a civic reception in the capital’s City Chambers to honour Sir Chris and the city’s other sporting heroes – canoeist David Florence, rower Katherine Grainger and swimmer Michael Jamieson.
The council has agreed to pursue plans for a “Sir Chris Hoy Cycle Network” after agreeing in principle to look at the creation of a city-wide series of safe cycling routes. A pilot scheme could be carried out on part of Leith Walk.
Councillors in Edinburgh have previously been criticised for acting too slowly to honour the capital’s Olympic heroes. However, they unanimously backed a motion, which called on Sir Chris to be given the honour.
The motion stated: “Sir Chris is already a recipient of the Edinburgh Award, which honours outstanding individuals who have made a positive impact on the city and gained national and international recognition for Edinburgh, but his further success at this year’s Olympic Games is deserving of the most prestigious honour that the city can bestow.”
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: “We will be having two separate events, although we obviously hope that Sir Chris will be able to attend the civic reception.
“It’s now a case of trying to match diaries up, but we want to have the freedom of Edinburgh ceremony as soon as possible. It is understood that Historic Scotland has not yet been approached over potential dates, but that the capacity of such an event at the Great Hall would be about 200.
Another option would be to hold the event at the Usher Hall, which would be able to accommodate about 2,300 people, but may land the council with a heftier bill.
Councillor Cardownie added: “We will obviously be speaking to Sir Chris to see what he thinks is appropriate.”
At yesterday’s council meeting the city’s lord provost, Donald Wilson, said he would be writing to Sir Chris immediately in order to “get things moving quickly”.
He added: “Sir Chris is an outstanding ambassador for Edinburgh and an inspirational role model for our city’s young people, proving that hard work, dedication and sheer determination can help turn natural talent into world-beating success.
“I very much hope he accepts this honour and that, in due course, we can welcome him to Edinburgh for what will be a wonderful occasion.”
Meanwhile, Green councillor Chas Booth said a cycle network named after Sir Chris would be a “lasting legacy and fitting tribute to our country’s most successful Olympian”.