Page last updated at 19:06 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 20:06 UK

Warm welcome for Olympic heroes

By Dan Bell
BBC News

Matthew and Noelle Stallard
Matthew and Noelle Stallard's son Tom is a rowing silver medallist

After the euphoria of Great Britain's most successful Olympic Games in a century, Team GB got back to some sort of normality in the arms of their loved ones.

The athletes returned on a special British Airways flight to Heathrow - although fans were asked not to descend on Terminal 5 for health and safety reasons.

The time to get the flags and bunting out will come on 16 October when a victory parade is held in London.

Team GB's homecoming was all about family and friends, many of whom had gathered at the Runnymede Hotel in Surrey to welcome them.

'Fantastic job'

However, Matthew and Noelle Stallard, whose son Tom won silver in the men's rowing eight, had made it to the airport.

The couple expressed their immense pride in their son, and the national pride they felt the games had inspired.

Mr Stallard said: "It's magical you know, we're both in rowing ourselves so we know what he's been through, so to finish that with a silver is fantastic."

Mrs Stallard added: "Loads of people we know have changed their attitude already to 2012.

"They say they feel proud to be British. I think everybody is now beginning to feel excited by the 2012 idea."

They were disappointed that people were not allowed to greet the team at the airport.

"It's a real shame that they are not going to walk out into a wall of emotion," said Mr Stallard.

His wife added: "His girlfriend is working nights as a doctor at the moment, so she's coming to meet him and then has to go back to work."

When the team arrived they were greeted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell before heading off to be reunited with their family and friends.

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Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington show off their gold medals at Heathrow

Despite the advice for the public to stay away, a handful people did travel to Heathrow to try to welcome the athletes.

Paul Redfern, 53, said this year's Olympics had been the best of his lifetime.

"I think this Olympics has grabbed my imagination more than any in the past, and I've watched them since 1968."

He said that in return he felt a responsibility to support the athletes when they came back.

Mr Redfern said he had wanted to tell the team: "Welcome home, fantastic job, by everybody, not just the medal winners, but everybody."

He wondered if the team had known that people were told to stay away.

One fan, eight-year-old Sean McKenna, said he had hoped to meet teenage diver Tom Daley, whose performances had inspired him to take up diving.

But, he said with a smile, at the moment his diving style most resembled "a sack of potatoes".

It is the kind of inspiration his mother Karen, a PE teacher, hopes can be capitalised upon in the run-up to 2012.

"What I'd like to see is if each head of PE was given 50 tickets just to watch the Games at the end of the year - what a year of teaching!"

Baby joy

Away from the airport at the hotel, there was a very special reunion for marathon runner Dan Robinson and his pregnant wife Jess, who was two days overdue.

As she waited for her husband, she said: "I thought when I said goodbye to him at Heathrow three-and-a-half weeks ago he was probably going to miss the occasion but hopefully, fingers crossed, he should be making it back in time."

Mrs Robinson said the pregnancy gave her the ideal opportunity to watch British success unfold in Beijing.

"It couldn't have come at a better time. Two weeks, lying on the sofa, watching all the events, it's been absolutely fantastic and we've done so well," she said.

When they were finally reunited, the runner said: "I'm thrilled that I'm in time and she hasn't had the baby when I'm miles away. It's really exciting."

For the British team, it was a day for hugs and tears among those they hold closest. Far more public adulation awaits.


SEE ALSO
GB Olympic heroes welcomed home
25 Aug 08 |  Olympics

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