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17 August 2012
As Olympic stars return home with the country's biggest haul of Olympic medals, councils across the country are laying on celebrations, naming streets after their sporting heroes and bestowing the rare Freedom of the Borough honour.
Although this would no longer grant the likes of Mo Farrah the right to race sheep through his town centre, it is still one of the highest accolades to be granted to a local resident.
Dave Braislford, the mastermind behind Team GB's cycling success has already received the honour from his hometown and Pendle Council is also set to honour Steven Burke shortly to mark his victory in the Men's cycling at the Olympic Velodrome.
There are also talks for other top athletes such as Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and twenty year old Laura Trott to receive this prestigious award which dates back to the Middle Ages.
Miles of bunting and banners were streamed throughout cities, towns and villages to celebrate Team GB's victories as they happened and town halls, sports clubs and families have since been finalising celebratory events befitting of their sporting heroes.
Today will see Sheffield crowds dress in gold to celebrate Jessica Ennis' success as Olympic heptathlon champion. There will also be a celebration parade to honour Mary King who won silver in the Olympic dressage heats. She will ride her horse, Imperial Cavalier through the streets of Sidmouth, whilst family, friends and colleagues follow in an open top bus.
Tomorrow, people in Peterborough are being encouraged to line the city's streets to welcome home Olympic medallist Louis Smith. The gymnast, who won team bronze and individual silver on the pommel horse, will be given an open-top bus tour by the mayor.
A special homecoming reception will also be held for bronze gymnast medallist Kristian Dudley at Earls Gymnastics Club in Dudley who will receive a heroes' welcome from fans.
The spirit of celebration is set to continue over the coming weeks as many more councils finalise their plans for parties to coincide with when their athletes return home after well-earned breaks. Broxbourne Council is even planning to name a street or a proposed new cycle bridge after Laura Trott.
Cllr Stephen Castle, Chairman of the Local Government Association's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Task and Finish Group, said:
“The London 2012 Olympic Games has been truly memorable as Team GB's amazing success positioned Britain third in the Medals league table and helped us to achieve our best results in over a hundred years.
“What made these Games even more special was that Team GB shone the light not only on Britain but importantly on their home communities across the country.
“Councils have been immensely proud of the success, drive, ambition and dedication of their local Olympian stars and for putting their cities, towns and villages firmly on the map.
“We have already seen councils award Freedom of the Borough honours, hold open top bus parades and civic ceremonies to welcome home their sporting heroes and to provide them with an opportunity to show off their medals to the crowds. With many more parties and celebrations yet to come, we expect this to be a summer for local communities to remember.”
Broxbourne Council was quick to celebrate the double gold-winning medal track cyclist Laura Trott by immediately putting up bunting and setting up a congratulations book for residents to sign to mark her achievements. It is working with the Trott family who are holding a big party in their street in her honour shortly. Other plans include offering Laura, the Freedom of the Borough honour naming a street or a proposed new cycle bridge after her, setting up Laura's Legacy, an academy programme for young people, and setting up an annual bequest to local athletes.
Pendle Council - Steven Burke, will be officially welcomed back to his home town of Colne on Saturday 25th August. He will be taken on a lap of honour around the town centre in an open top car and will be joined by family members and followed by cyclists from Pendle's local clubs.
Bolton Council is planning a big party for double gold medallist, Jason Kenny on Saturday, 1st September. Jason won the men's cycling team sprint and the individual sprint. Celebrations will kick off at 11am on Victoria Square where performers and dancers will entertain the crowds, before Jason comes out at around noon to show his medals to fans.
Hertfordshire County Council is also planning a celebration for Hertfordshire Olympians in the autumn. Plans are still being finalised but its intention is to involve local schools and young people in the celebrations with the aim to continue the Olympic legacy in the area.
Hounslow Council is finalising plans to honour Mo Farah and rowing and sculling medallists Pete Reed (Men's fours, gold) and Alan Campbell (single sculls, bronze) alongside all the coaches who made their successes possible.
Blackburn with Darwen Council - A trio from Blackburn Harriers and Athletics Club will return to a heroes' welcome as the council holds talks to plan a tribute to them. Samantha Murray won a silver medal in the modern pentathlon; Sophie Hitchon qualified for the hammer final, setting a new British Record to get there and Holly Bleasdale qualified for the pole vault final and finishing in the top six. They will return to the town after a well-deserved rest.
Cheshire East Council is planning to honour their many sporting heroes once they return home. The authority will mark the efforts and achievements of Macclesfield-born sailor Ben Ainslie, Bunbury gymnast Beth Tweddle, Crewe-born rower Matthew Langridge, Wilmslow track cyclist Victoria Pendleton, Macclesfield gymnast Jennifer Pinches, Crewe BMX cyclist Shanaze Reade and athletes taking part in the Paralympics.
North Kesteven District Council has invited hockey bronze medal winner Georgie Twigg to attend the NK Community Champion Awards 2012 in mid September where she will be presented with a commendation for her sporting achievements. She will also be invited to an 'Elite Athletes Reception' at the town hall in October.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council held a victory parade on an open top bus for Team GB sailors this week to celebrate their success in the London 2012 sailing events. This coincided with the council's Carnival Day.
Leeds City Council put on a show stopping welcome home party for their Olympic champions: Nicola Adams, who won the fist ever women's Olympic boxing medal when she took gold in the women's boxing, Alistair (gold medallist) and Jonathan (bronze medallist) Brownlee who achieved great success in the Triathlon and Lizzie Armitstead who secured a silver medal in the women's cycling road race and Team GB's first medal at the start of the London 2012 Games.
A crowd of 5,000 people also cheered Olympians from the GB diving team Sarah Barrow, Alicia Blagg, Hannah Starling and Jack Laugher, and the two GB weightlifters Jack Oliver and Gareth Evans.
Basildon based double Olympic bronze medallist Max Whitlock received a rapturous welcome when he returned home to a surprise party arranged for him by South Essex Gymnastics Club.
Stockton on Tees Council held a golden homecoming for Kat Copeland after she and her rowing partner Sophie Hosking won the women's lightweight double sculls at Eton Dorney. Kat made an appearance at her rowing Clubhouse, based at the River Tees Watersports Centre to show off her gold medal to crowds.
Stroud District Council - Pete Reed MBE, who became a double Olympic champion when he clinched gold in the men's coxless four, has been honoured with a civic reception and open-top bus tour of Stroud and Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.