Page last updated at 05:59 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 06:59 UK

Heroes' welcome for Paralympians

Clockwise from top left: Dave Roberts, Eleanor Simmonds, Liz Johnson, Simon Richardson
These and all Wales' Paralympians will be honoured

Wales' Paralympians are arriving home from Beijing to a heroes' welcome celebration in Cardiff Bay.

They amassed an impressive 14 medals in China, with swimmer David Roberts taking four golds to equal Dame Tanni Grey Thompson's record of 11.

The Welsh contingent will be greeted by hundreds of children when they arrive at the Senedd at noon.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan appealed for thousands of people to turn out to greet the successful Paralympians.

Last month about 2,000 people cheered as Olympic champions Nicole Cooke, Geraint Thomas, Tom James and the other Welsh members of Team GB showed off their medals at a similar welcome home celebration.

Among those they will be welcoming this time are Roberts, from Llantwit Fardre, and another double Paralympic champion in the pool, 13-year-old Eleanor Simmonds, who trains at Swansea.

Ceremony timetable

1200 BST: Angharad Mair starts proceedings and introduces Fitzalan High School Steel Band
1210: Performance by Radyr School Choir, Cardiff
1225: Parade starts from TY Hywel. Athletes will be led by ceremonial Chinese Lion and escorted by police horses
1230: Arrival of athletes and presentation of flowers by schoolboy Harri Jenkins
1235: Angharad Mair will read out the names of all athletes
1245: Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones will introduced First Minister Rhodri Morgan's recorded speech on a large video screen
1250: Speech by heritage minister
1255: Speech by Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas
1300: Angharad Mair closes ceremony and the national anthem is sung

Fellow Swansea-based athlete Liz Johnson, who won gold despite losing her mother to cancer as she flew out to Beijing, is also expected to attend, along with gold-winning cyclists Jody Cundy, from Swansea, and Simon Richardson, from Porthcawl.

Rhodri Morgan said: "Our Olympians have done Wales proud, and have continued the feel-good factor that has run through Welsh sport all year.

"As with the Olympics, the Welsh contingent has led the Team GB gold rush, and together they have raised the profile of the Paralympic movement in the eyes of the public. They fully deserve a heroes' welcome home."

Mr Morgan has recorded a special message for the Paralympians which will be played out on a big screen.

He is unable to attend the event in person because he will be returning home from Kentucky after taking part in Sunday's handover ceremony for the 2010 Wales Ryder Cup.

Jody Cundy competing in Beijing
Jody Cundy from Swansea racing in the velodrome at Beijing

Instead the celebration will be hosted by Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones, who said: "Our Paralympic athletes have performed fantastically well in Beijing, and I'm pleased that we're providing a fitting recognition of how well they have done.

"I hope that the Welsh public will come along in their droves to the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to join the school children who will be there to celebrate their achievements.

The party will begin at noon at the Senedd with a procession led by a traditional Chinese Lion

Television presenter Angharad Mair will host the event which will also include musical performances by the Fitzalan High School Steel Band and Radyr Comprehensive, both in Cardiff.

Hundreds of flag-waving school from schools in Brecon, Newbridge and Risca will also attend.

Harri Jenkins, 12, of Bryncoch, Neath, who has cerebral palsy and is also a competitive swimmer, will present all of the Paralympians with flowers.


SEE ALSO
Wales praises Paralympic success
18 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Pool star Roberts to carry flag
16 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Paralympic gold 'for dead mother'
12 Sep 08 |  South East Wales

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