MANCHESTER welcomed home the heroes of the Rio Olympic Games on Monday evening with a grand spectacle to behold.
As crowds lined the streets, balloons and union jack flags bouncing in the sharp Manchester wind – and for large spells rain – the scene was set for the medallists and now sporting icons to pay tribute to those who offered so much support over the summer Games.
Starting at the Museum of Science and Industry, just off Deansgate, fans were able to get up close with the recently retired heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill. Autographs were signed as she discussed her son Reggie, her incredible career and her medal success out in Brazil.
It was a day to celebrate but also one that was designed to reignite the palpable national pride that was cultivated across the country as medal alerts pinged to the phones of millions.
Sixteen floats carrying a handful of Olympic and Paralympic athletes including swimmers Ellie Simmonds and Ellie Thompson, gymnasts Max Whitlock and Bryony Page, rower Helen Glover and boxer Nicola Adams beamed as crowds unleashed gratitude.
From Deansgate to the National Football Museum to the big finale at Albert Square, from start to finish those who braved the typical wet weather synonymous with Manchester will speak fondly of a parade that will live long in the memory.
Television and photography gantries were erected across town and speaking to many alongside at the barrier – some had travelled not just from all over the country, but all over the world to be in Manchester.
London hosts a mirror event on Tuesday but for those in the North, it was an overwhelming sense of pride that, for once, there was a celebration of such scale outside of the UK Capital.
With Facebook Lives, DSLR cameras, Periscope streams and Snapchat stories popping up among the crowd like a social media epidemic, people of all ages had that one ‘star’ they were hoping to catch a glimpse of.
As they made their way to the finale at Albert Square where Kaiser Chiefs – a late replacement for Manchester United fan Olly Murs who pulled out hours before the event – and Rebecca Ferguson were performing for the assembled crowd, the weather proved no dampener on the party spirit.
There was something distinctly British about the parade as a whole. Sodden through, clothes ringing out, but everyone who turned out had a smile on their face.
And as the firework cannons were fired in the early part of Monday evening to signal the end of what was a carefully choreographed event, the anticipation and Olympic fever for Tokyo 2020 was temporarily refueled.
It was clear the Olympians had created an inspiring message with their feats in Rio when a mother and son rather poignantly referenced Adam Peaty in his newfound love for swimming.
That’s what it is really about; the parade was simply a show-off event for success but the legacy it reminded us all about is enough to inspire each and every one of us.