For the final extravaganza in an extraordinary summer in London, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Britons toasted the sporting heroes who have reawakened a recession-hit nation.
A party a decade in the making was coming to an end.
And the athletes could hardly believe it as the parade of floats that had weaved through the cheering streets pulled up in front of Queen Elizabeth II’s residence.
“Every street you passed, you could see the masses disappearing into the horizon — phenomenal,” said six-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy. “Eventually it has to come to an end and that’s the hard part. There is a tinge of sadness I will never be able to top this.”
“Yeah!” responded the flag-waving crowd on The Mall.
The poster girl of the home team, heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, was at the front of the parade of 21 floats.
“Sports lovers were excited by the Olympics, but I think there are a few people that weren’t sure as to how it would pan out,” Ennis said. “But it’s just brought everyone together, and it’s been a whole buzz throughout the country.”
Britain’s summer in the international spotlight began in May with festivities to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and her granddaughter, Zara Phillips, won a silver medal in equestrian at the Olympics.
“Unbelievable, to think that everyone’s come out for all of us,” Phillips said on board a float weaving its way through the streets. “This is like the whole games though … the crowd were unbelievable and we are so grateful to them.”
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