Pressure on council to organise public event to honour Chris Hoy’s Olympic achievements

Belfast's Olympic bronze medal winners Michael Conlan (left) and Paddy Barnes on an open top bus in Belfast
Belfast's Olympic bronze medal winners Michael Conlan (left) and Paddy Barnes on an open top bus in Belfast
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CITY leaders came under renewed pressure today to honour our Olympic heroes now – as sports clubs and politicians reacted with amazement that the Capital will not mark Sir Chris Hoy’s glory until after next month’s official celebration in Glasgow.

The cycling club where Sir Chris honed his skills insisted the council should have hosted a public event already, while local authorities in England – where a series of homecoming parties have been held this week – said the issue of holding a parade had not even been up for debate. A government-led victory bash will take place in Glasgow after the Paralympics, but cities such as Sheffield and Leeds, and Belfast in Northern Ireland, said they didn’t even consider waiting until after the official Team GB celebration in London on September 10.

Jonathan (left) and Alistair Brownlee at a homecoming reception in Millennium Square, Leeds.

Jonathan (left) and Alistair Brownlee at a homecoming reception in Millennium Square, Leeds.

Brian Annable, of the City of Edinburgh Racing Club, of which Sir Chris is a member and patron, said: “I would have thought that the council would have done something already.

“Everyone at the club is very proud of Chris’ achievements and we have a lot more kids coming in as a result. The council should give folk their chance to turn out and cheer him.”

Bike clubs are keen to capitalise on enthusiasm in cycling generated by the Olympics, and others urged the council not to lose that momentum.

Johnny May, club secretary of Edinburgh Road Club, said: “We have had a lot of inquiries and emails recently and it won’t help us capitalise on Olympic fever if we have to wait until September. It would be better to have something now and in Edinburgh.”

Luke Campbell at an Olympic homecoming in  Hull.

Luke Campbell at an Olympic homecoming in Hull.

City leaders have said they plan to hold a civic reception for athletes including Sir Chris and David Florence as well as Edinburgh University graduates, swimmer Michael Jamieson and rower Katherine Grainger, with a parade to follow – but only after the Glasgow celebration on 
September 14. Plans to honour Sir Chris, who became Britain’s greatest ever Olympian when he added two gold medals in the London to the four he already had to his name, with the Freedom of the City will take a step forward next Thursday when councillors meet. But already in the days since the curtain fell on the Games, residents in cities and towns across the United Kingdom have flocked on to the streets to welcome their heroes home.

Thousands of people turned out in Leeds to see triathlon gold and bronze medal-
winning brothers, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, and cycling road race silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead on Monday.

Gold-medal winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis can expect massive crowds when she appears in her hometown of Sheffield today.

A spokeswoman for Sheffield City Council told the News: “We never gave a second thought to anywhere else hosting a parade and we would have gone ahead with our own plans anyway even if there was. She’s a Sheffield girl and the people of the city want to turn out and honour her.”

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council added: “Leeds has two gold medallists and many other success stories to boast about, the entire event was just pulled together without any fuss.”

Alex Salmond was accused yesterday of hijacking the parade for political gain, by using it as a springboard for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Paul Edie, Lib Dem group leader on the council, said it had been “daft” to choose Glasgow and argued Edinburgh should stage its parade “sooner rather than later”.

He said: “We want to be tapping into all this enthusiasm and the inspiration these wonderful athletes have given us as soon as possible. There is a huge feelgood buzz about the Olympics. The athletes have done a lot to lift us and it would be good to honour them in Scotland’s Capital city.”

If others can do it sooner, why not here?

WELL-KNOWN faces from across the Capital have united to urge the city council to move swiftly to honour the Olympians.

Radio DJ Grant Stott, below, said: “Sir Chris Hoy should definitely be honoured in his home town for his achievements. He can have whatever he wants, he should even be given the manager of Hearts job if he fancies it.”

Lothians Green MSP and former athlete Alison Johnstone, below, said: “Edinburgh is very good at putting on a party.

“I hope the city does take the opportunity to celebrate the hard work and fantastic achievements of local and national sportspeople – and it would be nice to do so now rather than wait a month.”

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz, below, said there was no reason for a delay.

“People in Edinburgh would love an opportunity to celebrate not just the medal winners but all those who took part in the Olympics and it makes sense to organise some event as soon as possible,” he said.

Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown, below, urged the council to take advantage of the Olympic fervour by staging a parade as soon as possible.

He said: “When someone wins something big you try to acknowledge that as soon as possible. When Hearts won the cup, they didn’t say ‘We’ll have a victory parade a month down the line’.

“There is a real high at the moment, right across the country, and it would be better to acknowledge the athletes’ achievements while that is there.

“If other councils can do things sooner there is no reason why we should not be able to. I would push for it to be held as soon as practicable.”