SIR Chris Hoy described being awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh as the biggest honour of his life.
The greatest British Olympian of all time joined the exclusive club – which counts Nelson Mandela and Sir Sean Connery amongst its few members – when he was presented with the accolade after yesterday’s parade.
Entering the ceremony – held at the Assembly Rooms in George Street – to rapturous applause were the ten “Team Edinburgh” athletes who accompanied Hoy on the bus tour.
A short time later, Hoy arrived with his wife, Sarra, as the ceremony was introduced by Lord Provost Donald Wilson, who said: “On behalf of the city of Edinburgh, welcome home.”
Young choir singers from Hoy’s former school, George Watson’s College, performed three songs, including Now is the Month of Hoy, adapted from the ballet Now is the Month of Maying.
The audience of around 500 people was then shown video footage chronicling Hoy’s many achievements, accompanied by the music Theme for the Velodrome by the Chemical Brothers.
Next to take to the stage was Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings, who described Hoy’s achievements as “nothing short of extraordinary”.
“For you and your family, Chris, being a champion will last forever,” he said. “So thank you, on behalf of everyone here and indeed, the whole city of Edinburgh.
“Thank you for all that you have done for sport in this country and for showing such humbleness and humility in everything.”
Hoy, who dressed for the occasion by donning a kilt, was then officially awarded the Freedom of the City. He said: “This is the biggest honour I have ever had.”
The six-time Olympic medallist, who spoke of his delight at having received such praise from his hero, Gavin Hastings, said: “To be mentioned alongside such incredible names – Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Winston Churchill – it blows me away.
“Today was a day I will never forget, to see so many people coming out to support the team. We had a parade in London, a parade in Edinburgh, but when it’s your home town it just means so much more.
“Edinburgh has to be, in my eyes, the greatest city in the world, so to come back home and have this reception and to have this kind of welcome is fantastic.”
Hoy, who said there was a “little bit more life” in his legs, added: “It’s two years to the Commonwealth Games and that would be the perfect end to my career.”