Olympic hero Callum Skinner to turn on Christmas lights

Great Britain's Callum Skinner during the homecoming event at Festival Square. Picture; PA
Great Britain's Callum Skinner during the homecoming event at Festival Square. Picture; PA
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He lit up the Rio velodrome with a string of scorching performances – and now he’s going to light up the Capital . . . literally.

Olympic cycling star Callum Skinner was today named as the star attraction for this year’s Light Night – when Edinburgh’s Christmas decorations are switched on.

Callum Skinner celebrates at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Picture; Lars Baron

Callum Skinner celebrates at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Picture; Lars Baron

The 24-year-old will press the button in front of thousands of festive revellers in George Street – also the new home for the Street of Light – on Sunday, November 20.

Former city schoolboy Callum returned home from Brazil this summer with one gold medal and one silver from his first-ever Games.

He told the Evening News today of his excitement at following in the footsteps of his idol Sir Chris Hoy, who switched on the Capital’s Christmas lights in 2013.

Callum said: “It’s been an incredible year for me – winning both gold and silver in the Olympics.

“I’m proud to be returning to start Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities in the city I grew up in and where I first discovered track cycling.

“Light Night is a terrific community celebration bringing everyone together in a free, fun and spectacular event in the centre.”

Callum was brought up in Bruntsfield and was a pupil at James Gillespie’s High School.

He began his cycling career in 2008 at the same Meadowbank track that nurtured Sir Chris, and went on to land a string of accolades and represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, before qualifying for the Olympics.

In Brazil, he won gold in the men’s team sprint along with Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, setting a new Olympic record in the final against New Zealand. He then won a silver medal in the men’s individual sprint.

Forth One DJ Arlene Stuart will again be hosting Light Night – which attracted 20,000 people last year – and will be joined on stage by a range of acts, including Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and Tigerstyle.

Callum has nominated the Jabulani Project, which seeks to empower individuals and communities in South Africa, as his charity to benefit from the celebration. He said: “It’s a chance for me to highlight the great work that the Jabulani Project do for township children in South Africa.”

Alex Wallace, former head of James Gillespie’s High School, said: “Everyone at Gillespie’s is so proud of Callum’s achievements.

“When he was a student he was so modest and self-effacing but he also had passion for what he believed in.

“He lives his beliefs. He stands up for diversity and carries his school ethos into the wider world, never afraid to be controversial if the situation demands it.”

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “Who better to switch on Edinburgh’s Christmas lights than Callum Skinner?

“He’s had a phenomenal year winning gold and silver medals in the Olympic Games and has done his former school James Gillespie’s proud.

“I’m delighted such a great ambassador for the city and for sport will kick off the winter celebrations in Edinburgh.”

courtney.cameron@jpress.co.uk