Great Britain parties after glittering Olympics success

August 24th, 2008 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 24 (IANS) Giving themselves a much-needed break from economic gloom and political doom, Britons are celebrating their greatest Olympics in a century - and with perfect timing ahead of the London 2012 Games.Tens of thousands of pounds are being offered in cash bonuses to Great Britain’s many medallists - headed by 19 golds - and authorities warned of a huge scrum at airports as the nation’s favourite athletes return home from Beijing this week.

Thousands of people are expected to gather at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 - erasing memories of the terminal’s disastrous opening in March - to greet athletes Monday afternoon.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has led the Labour Party to some of its worst post-war showing at home, said in Beijing Saturday: “Millions are watching on television in Britain and the enthusiasm and joy of the Olympic events is rising every day so that when the team returns on Monday they will have a tremendous reception and ovation from the whole of the British people.”

Team GB finished the Beijing Games with a haul of 47 medals - 19 golds, 13 silvers and 15 bronzes - that put the nation of 61 million in the fourth place after China, the US and Russia.

It was the best showing since the 1908 Games in London, where the nation won 56 gold, 51 silver and 38 bronze medals. But only 22 countries competed that year.

“Spectacular, inspiring, breathtaking and memorable. GB stands for Great Britain in every sense,” declared British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan.

Britain maintained the momentum right through the Beijing Games - from the moment cyclist Nicole Cooke won a gold on the second day to James Degale’s boxing gold on the evening of day 15.

In between cyclist Chris Hoy became the first British athlete to win three gold medals in one Olympic Games.

Londoners wasted no time in partying: Sunday was the day for the ‘Party on The Mall’ - a song-and-dance celebration on the wide tree-lined road leading up to Buckingham Palace expected to draw some 40,000 people.

Queen Elizabeth II said: “The golden triumphs of the present British team can only serve as further inspiration to those who will be working hard over the next four years to make the London Games a shining example of Olympic success.”

Britain’s female athletes were singled out for special praise. Seven gold medals were won by British women in Beijing, surpassing the previous best of five in 1908.

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