LEADING sports figures have today called for plans to celebrate the achievements of Scotland’s Olympic heroes to be rolled out to include the wider public.
They insist there should be an opportunity for people to show their appreciation for the athletes who competed at Rio 2016 – most suitably with an open-top bus parade.
Plans to host a celebratory party on the outskirts of the city next month – where a tiny proportion of the public would be permitted access – have been criticised for not going far enough to allow locals, and athletes themselves, a real chance to revel in the excitement of the Games.
Allan Wells MBE, who won gold in the 100m sprint at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, said: “An open-top bus parade is a very special thing. I think there is a very good reason to show our support for the athletes and to give them a homecoming they will remember.”
Sportscotland has unveiled its plans for a celebratory event to mark the achievements of the country’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes at Oriam, the new national sporting facility at Heriot-Watt University at Riccarton.
The two-and-a-half-hour event will take place in the 400-capacity sports hall on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28, with all athletes invited, along with selected school children, members of Community Sports Hubs, Young Ambassadors, the young people’s sports panel and governing bodies of sports.
Members of the public will have a chance to win tickets through social media while the rest of the nation will be invited to watch a live streaming online.
But the plans have come under attack for not going far enough to include the rest of the nation who has supported Scotland’s sporting heroes throughout the 2016 Games.
Green Party Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone, co-convener of the Cross Party Group on Sport, said: “Let’s widen this celebration out. If Sportscotland wants to have this by all means have it, but let’s also have an open event for everyone.
“I very much hope that the city council and Sport- scotland will speak to each other and get a bus down the Royal Mile.”
Around 50,000 people came out to cheer on Scotland’s Olympic sports stars after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, cramming themselves on to the Royal Mile as the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Katherine Grainger waved from aboard an open-top bus.
Similar scenes were witnessed post-London 2012 as Lothian’s athletes made their way through the city by bus, lapping up adoration from the public who had come out to show their support.
Allan Wells, who lives in the Capital, said: “I felt very humbled when an open-top bus parade was done for me; honoured and privileged.
“It was raining and I remember thinking that nobody would come out – but I could not believe the reaction. It says a lot for Scotland’s attitude.
“It was special and it made me feel good and at the end of the day we should give our athletes respect, irrespective of whether they got a medal or not. It’s also a chance for the athletes to thank the public for their support.”
Sportscotland has defended its plans with a spokesman insisting the event at Heriot-Watt would be “fantastic”.
He said: “We think the vast majority of people will be positive about it. People will have the opportunity to watch it on a live streaming.”
Following the event, the athletes will be invited to an evening of “celebration and recognition” at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, organised by Commonwealth Games Scotland, where the Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards 2016 will take place.
Sportscotland chief executive Stewart Harris said: “The homecoming celebrations will provide a fitting tribute to the Scottish Olympians and Paralympians, and where better to have the post-Games event than at Oriam, Scotland’s brand new, world-class national performance centre.”
He added: “It has been a remarkable performance from the Scots to win 12 medals and have 15 medallists. This represents the most successful overseas Games for Scots on Team GB and everyone in Scotland can be very proud of their success.”
Edinburgh City Council could not confirm whether it would host an open-top bus parade, either for all Scotland’s athletes or only those from across the Lothians.
A spokesman told the Evening News: “Sportscotland is organising a national homecoming event in Edinburgh, which we are fully supporting.
“At the same time, plans are being developed for the Lord Provost to congratulate all Edinburgh athletes on their fantastic achievements.”