Let the party begin. Victorious in Rio, Team GB’s samba spirit is now coming to Leeds as plans are confirmed for a massive homecoming celebration for this county’s heroic Olympians and all those Paralympians who we expect to rule the world in the coming days.
Unprecedented in its size thanks to the vision of the organising team, the September 28 cavalcade is a golden chance for the whole region to come together and show its appreciation for the people’s champions.
Everyone will have their own special memory – the emotional embrace of the Brownlee brothers at the end of the triathlon, the sheer joy etched across the faces of divers Jack Laugher and Chris Mears and gymnast Nile Wilson’s nerveless performance on the high bar are just three on a very long list.
Yet, while a national victory parade is planned for Manchester, Team Yorkshire’s level of success was so awe-inspiring - the county was 17th in the final medal table – that our local lads and lasses deserve a chance to acknowledge the public’s acclaim and also pay tribute to all those who supported them on the long road to Rio, whether it be their families, support staff or members of the public who faithfully purchased Lottery tickets so they could receive world-class coaching. This was the ultimate team effort.
However it is also about legacy – and sport’s value to society. People don’t have to be like the Brownlee brothers – not many are – to forge lifelong friendships or appreciate the health benefits that can be derived from regular exercise, or team sports like hockey, at a time when this city is facing an obesity crisis.
It’s about making sure school sport is not marginalised; that grassroots clubs are accessible to all following the success of last Saturday’s I am Team GB open day and that this region continues to attract top class events to inspire a generation, starting with next year’s world series triathlon in Leeds and, with luck, cycling’s world road championships in 2019. If Yorkshire can provide a show of support like no other to celebrate its status as a sporting powerhouse, there’s every reason that this homecoming will give some gentle encouragement to those who still need persuading about the merits of going for a jog, riding a bike or learning to swim. If it can truly inspire a generation to lead more active lifestyles, it will be the greatest gold of all.
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