From Brazil to Briggate: Olympic heroes return
Yorkshire Olympians and Paralympians celebrated their success at Rio this week during a homecoming parade organised by Leeds City Council.
Thousands lined the streets to cheer on athletes as they rode around Leeds on open top buses.
Yorkshire Olympians brought home 14 out of an overall total of 67 medals for Team GB at the Rio Olympics, while Yorkshire Paralympians produced 12 of the 147 Team GB achieved.
The medal count of Yorkshire was so high that if it was classed as a country on its own, it would have come 17th in the Rio Olympics, ahead of Canada and New Zealand.
The parade included Alistair and Jonny Brownlee who both studied at Leeds University. Alistair graduated in 2010 with a degree in Sports Science and Physiology, while Jonny read History.
At the Rio Olympics Alistair won the gold, becoming the first triathlete to retain an Olympic title. The historic win was made even greater when Jonny came second, joining his brother in an exhausted heap on the floor.
This historic win built on previous successes at the London 2012 Olympics, where Alistair came first and Jonny third.
They were welcomed back to Leeds with overwhelming support from the crowds.
Alistair announced on social media that it had been “Amazing to see so many people in Leeds last night for the Homecoming Parade.”
A total of six buses were needed to transport the athletes around the city centre and those on board included paralympic double gold medallist Kadeena Cox and diving champion Jack Laugher who won gold in the 3m springboard synchro with Chris Mears.
Nile Wilson, the bronze medallist gymnast, demonstrated his skills on the front of double-decker number five.
Olympic rower Andrew Triggs-Hodge tweeted: “What a great day! In the county you love, sharing the sheer joy of a gold medal! Loving it!”
People travelled from across Yorkshire to witness the spectacular parade. One of the volunteers spoke enthusiastically about the parade, calling it an ‘historic event’ which was ‘a sign of things to come’ for Yorkshire.
Previously celebratory events for the Olympics had been mainly focused in the capital particularly after the 2012 games. However this week’s homecoming parade set up in Leeds demonstrates the ability of our northern cities to be able to host popular events and so hopefully future celebrations of our Olympians may become less London-centric and more centred around the talent in our local communities.
The parade was hailed greatly by one proud Yorkshireman, who was celebrating Yorkshire as ‘the powerhouse of the North.’
Following the London 2012 Olympic Games, Leeds City Council invested £1million in funding sports programmes encouraging people to become more physically active and it appears that the investment is paying off. Many talented Yorkshire athletes are rising through the ranks, with many pinning their hopes on making it to Tokyo in 2020.
The Brownlee brothers have previously hinted at a return to the Olympic Games in time for Tokyo in 2020 as Alistair has said that ‘The Olympics is a big thing so I think it would be a struggle not to be in Tokyo.’ One thing is certain, though: Yorkshire has made a massive contribution to the Olympic success in Rio and will continue to do so for future Olympic Games.
Sophie Wheeler, Polly Hatcher
(Image: Liberty Maher)