MSPs urged to back parade for Scotland’s Olympic heroes

Callum Skinner and friends fly home. Picture: Getty

Callum Skinner and friends fly home. Picture: Getty

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MSPS were today urged to back growing demands for a parade for Scotland’s Olympic heroes as Team GB flew home from Rio.

Gold-winning Edinburgh cyclist Callum Skinner, judo star Sally Conway and bronze medallist athlete Eilidh Doyle were among those celebrating on board the gold-nosed British Airways Boeing 747 during the 11-hour flight to London.

Sportscotland has announced only an afternoon event for an invited audience of 400 at Oriam, the national sports centre at Heriot-Watt University at Riccarton next month.

But the exclusive nature of the planned celebration has sparked an outcry and calls for another event to give the public a chance to show their appreciation of the athletes.

Public parades were held in Edinburgh after the 2008 
Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.

Team GB won a total of 67 medals – 27 golds, 23 silvers and 17 bronze. They won gold medals across more sports than any other nation and improved on their medal haul for the fifth consecutive Olympics.

Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said he was tabling a motion in the Scottish Parliament today, calling for a parade to celebrate the success in Rio. He said: “Scotland’s Olympians are the pride of our nation and we really need the opportunity to show our gratitude and support for these sportsmen and women and their achievements in Rio.

“To have such a meagre offering when the whole of Manchester will be celebrating the arrival of Team GB in the autumn suggests a miserly attitude both to the Olympians and to the public who want to celebrate with them.

“These athletes have already inspired a generation of children and young people and we should do all we can to capitalise on that and keep that Olympic spirit going.

“I will be putting a motion to parliament congratulating our Olympians and urging the Scottish Government and Sportscotland to publicly recognise their achievements with a parade to match the celebrations in Manchester.”

Lothian Green MSP and former athlete Alison Johnstone also wants a parade. She said: “This is so disappointing for the athletes who’ve worked so hard, and we’re missing an opportunity to further inspire young and old as many would love to see our many sporting stars in the flesh.

“I urge the council and Sportscotland to work together to make this happen.”

The sportsmen and women of Team GB shared pictures of themselves enjoying a party atmosphere on the flight home as they celebrated becoming the first country to better a home medal count at the following Olympics. Some posed for pictures in the cockpit and tried on pilot hats as they sipped champagne, unwinding from the pressure of top-level competition.

Skinner posted a picture of himself with his feet up in first-class while sipping champagne.

One friend later joked: 
“Callum Skinner, whose events finished a while back, leaves plane in big dark glasses.”

There were jubilant scenes as the jet – with 320 athletes and staff on board and “victoRIOus” emblazoned on the side – landed at Heathrow yesterday.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com