GLOUCESTERSHIRE’S golden team of sportsmen and women formed part of an heroic victory parade through London on Monday, writes Alexandra Womack.
The region’s medal winners joined 800 fellow Olympians and Paralympians atop 21 floats on a tour of the capital, as an estimated one million people lined the streets to celebrate the sporting success of Team GB and Paralympics GB.
From Mansion House to The Mall, there was a sea of red, white and blue as fans who have enjoyed a golden summer of sport waved their Union Jacks with pride.
Rowers Peter Reed, the former Deer Park student from Nailsworth, and Alex Gregory, from Wormington, who won gold together in the Men's Coxless Four at Eton Dorney, signed autographs and waved to the sea of fans who packed into The Strand.
Dressage trio Laura Bechtolsheimer (now an Oaksey resident) as well as Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester (both based in Newent), who won Team GB's 20th gold at Greenwich Park, shared their experiences with equestrian reporter Clare Balding live on television as they entered Trafalgar Square.
Double gold medal winner Dujardin and Bechtolsheimer, who took bronze in the individual dressage, were joined by team eventing silver medalist Zara Phillips on their float.
Afterwards Hester tweeted: “Never in my life felt the passion of so many people for our Olympic teams – amazing day on the float.”
Hockey bronze medalist Ashleigh Ball from Cheltenham joined her team-mates to savour the atmosphere and thank the thousands of volunteers who helped make the games.
She tweeted on Tuesday: “Thank you to everyone who turned out yesterday at the parade, was really special and a perfect way to round off the Games.”
Peter Watson, the Andoversford-trained gold medalist in the shooting double trap, also formed part of the parade which was led by two giant red lions representing both Olympic teams.
The route along The Mall was reserved for 9,000 of the volunteers and members of the Armed Services who helped marshal events, but hundreds more enjoyed the party atmosphere in London as office workers peaked out of windows for a view, schoolchildren cheered in unison and people adorned with Union Jacks climbed lamp posts for a glimpse of their favourite sports star.
After the Pet Shop Boys played a medley of hits, including West End Girls and Go West to signal the move to the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the crowds outside Buckingham Palace.
He said: “To every one of our great Olympians and Paralympians you have given us moments we will never forget, the whole country salutes your brilliance.
“If other people’s children are anything like mine, they’re dreaming about being Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis, Dave Weir or Jonnie Peacock, they’re begging their parents to set up mini-Olympics, they’re thinking about sport and disability in ways they never did before.”
HRH the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Association, added: “Thank you to our athletes for their inspiring achievements. I do mean all the athletes, not just those who’ve won medals, all of them. You are now Olympians and Paralympians. You set the tone for the future.”
London 2012 saw both British teams finish third in the medals table with Team GB’s Olympians taking 29 golds, 17 silvers and 19 bronzes. Their Paralympian counterparts collected 34 golds, 43 silvers and 43 bronzes.