Thousands of fans gathered in London on Thursday to greet Britain's Olympians and Paralympians for a parade to celebrate their Beijing success.
After the 12-float procession travelled from Mansion House to Trafalgar Square, the Olympians ended their day by meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Cycling star Chris Hoy called the day "very special", while swimmer Rebecca Adlington said it had been "brilliant".
A Palace reception for the Paralympic stars will be held early in 2009.
Hoy, winner of three gold Olympic medals in the velodrome, added: "It's unbelievable and great to see so much positivity. It's the stuff of dreams."
Hoy and his fellow cyclists Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Romero and Paralympic champions Sarah and Barney Storey, Rachel Morris and Simon Richardson were the first to arrive by Nelson's Column and were welcomed by the cheering fans.
With all the athletes gathered in Trafalgar Square at the end of the procession, mayor of London Boris Johnson responded to criticism of the timing of the parade.
Johnson said: "There's never a wrong time to celebrate the greatest achievement by an Olympic and Paralympic team since 1908."
He added: "I hope there are kids watching today, saying 'that could be me in 2012'."
Olympics minister Tessa Jowell called the parade a "fitting tribute."
British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg said: "To have this reception is fantastic. We have recognised that bringing all the athletes together has been very challenging."
Mark Hunter, gold medallist with Zac Purchase in the lightweight double sculls, was joined by 21 of his 24 team-mates who won medals in China, as well as 400m Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu and 400m hurdles bronze medallist Natasha Danvers.
Hunter said: "I wouldn't miss this for the world. Our success is everybody's success."
Adlington on life since Beijing
Lee Pearson, Paralympic dressage gold medallist, was on the sixth float with the rest of the equestrian teams, along with Sarah Stevenson, who won Britain's first taekwondo medal, and modern pentathlon silver medallist Heather Fell.
The successful sailing teams, including three-time Olympic winner Ben Ainslie, were on float seven, and boxing champion James DeGale following behind.
The ninth float held two of the Paralympic gold-medal winning boccia team, with Tim Brabants celebrating his canoeing gold and bronze on float 10.
Next up was Dave Roberts, who won four Paralympic swimming gold medals taking his tally to 11, along with 14-year-old diver Tom Daley.
Daley said: "I've had one day off since coming back from China and gone back to school. But today's just amazing."
The final float contained swimming sensations Adlington and Britain's youngest Paralympic champion, 13-year-old Eleanor Simmonds, whose tearful celebrations in Beijing captured the nation's imagination.
Double gold medallist Adlington, Mansfield's most famous swimmer, is one of the favourites for the BBC Sport Personality award and joked that her two medals had been chipped because of all the attention.
She said: "All of the support is just brilliant. Everybody says swimming is boring, but hopefully the sport can be put right on the map now."
Following the activities in Trafalgar Square, over 500 Olympians, including those medallists in the procession and their support staff, spent just under three hours at Buckingham Palace.
The reception was held with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal, who is president of the British Olympic Association.
Hoy said meeting the Queen for the third time was "fantastic", while Adlington admitted to being very nervous but said: "At least I can say that I have spoken to her and I will always remember it for the rest of my life."
Athletics star Ohuruogu said: "She is the most iconic figure in the UK and to have her spend a couple of minutes talking to you is fantastic. It is something that I will be able to tell my grandchildren."
Beijing performance 'Herculean' - Coe
London 2012 chief Lord Coe said the athletes' efforts in Beijing had been "herculean".
"It's been a great day for them and I'm sure many of the athletes are starting to realise just how excited we were back home," Coe told the BBC.
He added the mood in the Palace had been "very upbeat". "It's been a long day, but it's everything they deserve and has ended just as spectacularly for them."
Reflecting on London hosting the next Olympics and Paralympics, he added: "It will be a Games for everyone. The real challenge is getting all the kids here today into sport on a regular basis.
"Beijing gave us the most extraordinary platform for the next four years."
Team GB returned from China in August after their best Olympic medal haul in 100 years, finishing fourth in the medal table with 19 golds, 13 silvers and 15 bronze.
The ParalympicsGB team were Britain's most successful for two decades, winning 102 medals, including 42 golds, to finish second in the table behind the Chinese.
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