Leeds & West Yorkshire

Thousands gather for Leeds Olympic homecoming

Streamers over the crowd
Image caption A bang, a whoosh of air, confetti and streamers covered the front row of the crowds and it was over. Leeds had welcomed its Olympians home.

About 5,000 people attended an event to celebrate the achievements of Leeds' Olympic athletes.

All Leeds competitors at the London Games were invited to the event at Millennium Square.

Triathlon stars Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, cyclist Lizzie Armitstead and boxer Nicola Adams are among those whose achievements were marked.

Alistair Brownlee said seeing such a large crowd turn out in his home city was "absolutely amazing".

He said: "Last week after our race we went on one of the big stages in London and I think there was tens of thousands of people there but just to see these people turn up in Leeds, a much smaller place and our hometown, it's just that little but more special."

Armitstead said the past fortnight had been the best of her life.

'Declaring independence'

Council leader Keith Wakefield said before the event: "We had over 200,000 people lining the streets for the torch, that's one in four people in Leeds, so I knew there was great expectation and excitement in the city.

"From then on, it's just been absolute inspiration day after day. We're thinking of declaring independence because we've won so many medals."

It was "only right and proper" that the people of Leeds should pay homage to the city's Olympians, added Mr Wakefield.

"We believe that as a city we should honour them for their contribution, their sacrifice and commitment and, above all, the inspiration they have provided," he said.

Nicola Adams, who made history as the first ever Olympic women's boxing champion, said in a recorded message shown during the celebration that she was "very sorry" not to be able to attend in person.

"I'll be there soon and I really want to bring the gold medal and show it to everybody in Yorkshire," she said.

"I'd just like to say thank you for all the support you've given me. It's really spurred me on and I couldn't have done it without you all."

Divers Alicia Blagg, Hannah Starling, Jack Laugher, Sarah Barrow and Rebecca Gallantree also attended.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Ann Castle, hosted a civic reception for the athletes.

"It's obvious the people of Leeds really, really want to say thank you to the athletes for all they have done for the city," said Mrs Castle.

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