Calls grow for public celebration of Scotland's Olympic success

Calls are growing for a large-scale public celebration to mark the achievements of Scotland's Olympic heroes.

Monday, 22nd August 2016, 7:54 am
Updated Monday, 22nd August 2016, 9:03 am
Sir Chris Hoy signs autographs for fans on the Royal Mile during Edinburgh's 2012 celebrations. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The latest appeals come as the curtain closes on Britain’s greatest ever Games, with the country claiming second place in the final medal table.

Sportscotland confirmed on Friday that it would hold a celebration at Oriam, the national sports performance centre, which is based at Heriot-Watt University on the outskirts of the city.

But its exclusive, limited nature has sparked demands from sports figures and politicians for a grander, more inclusive event such as an open-top bus tour.

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Among those adding his voice to the calls was boxing legend Alex Arthur.

“This should be shouted about from the high heavens,” said the former WBO champion from Edinburgh.

“If people knew how much goes into what they’ve achieved and how hard they have all worked, they would agree that there should be a parade around the city on an open-topped bus.

“But it doesn’t shock me that a more low-key event is planned – it’s probably to do with costs and saving money.”

Tory MSP Brian Whittle, who won gold in the 4x400 metres relay at both the 1986 European Athletics Championships and 1994 European Athletics Championships, also wants to see a victory parade through the streets.

He said: “It would be great for the public to see the athletes, but from the athletes’ perspective it would also be great.

“It would be nice for them to understand the immense pleasure we have had over here in watching their performances.

“The opportunity for them to understand that huge pleasure and the honour they have brought to our country, that would be the optimum for me.”

He added: “They have been in a bubble out in Rio where the outside world does not come in.

“They will come back here to see they have had the support of the nation and see they have made us proud.”

The two-and-a-half-hour homecoming celebration will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28, in the 400-capacity sports hall at Oriam.

It is open to all athletes, 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, with live online streaming of the event also due to be provided.

But the plans have come under attack for not going far enough to include the rest of the nation following strong support for Scotland’s sporting heroes throughout the 2016 Games.

Olympic great Lord Menzies Campbell is among those calling for a parade north of the Border to honour the country’s Rio victors.

The former Lib Dem leader – and sprint champion – made the comments after parades were announced for Manchester and London.

He said: “Why should the wonderful achievements of Scottish participants in the Olympic Games be denied the same kind of rapturous reception as they got after London 2012? I’m sure the public will want the chance to express their appreciation.”

Senior SNP councillor Steve Cardownie said Sportscotland should organise another event which would allow the public to show their appreciation of the athletes.

He said: “It would be a pity to deny people the opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s achievements at the Olympics – and it’s only fair on the athletes to give them the opportunity to enjoy the public’s display of support.

“I will be asking council officials to look into the options and see if Sportscotland can make it an event that will satisfy both athletes and the public.”

Cllr Cardownie also stressed that a Wednesday was not a good day for members of the public, especially children who would be at school.

He said: “We’re trying to promote sports to young people, so we want to give them an opportunity to go along and see the athletes and join in the celebrations.

“We need a parade or some kind of public event which the public – including children – can attend and athletes can soak up the adulation.

“A Sunday event would be good – that’s when we have usually done these kind of things.”

He said one idea might have been to have an event at Meadowbank where the athletes could have walked around the stadium with their medals before heading to Heriot-Watt.

“Or Hearts might have allowed them to do that at Tynecastle, which would be easier for getting out there,” he added.

But given the unsuitability of the chosen date for the Heriot-Watt event, he said there should be another celebration in the Capital on another date.

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.

Following the event at Oriam, the athletes will be invited to a Commonwealth Games Scotland-organised evening of “celebration and recognition” at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 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.

“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’s Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, added: “This is the Scottish capital’s chance to welcome home its Olympic and Paralympic heroes and to honour their outstanding achievements in Rio.”

City council bosses could not confirm whether they would host an open-top bus parade, either for all Scotland’s athletes or only those from across the Lothians.

A spokesman said: “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.”