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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 12:14 GMT
Fans bring London to standstill
England fans swamp Nelson's Column
Hordes of fans lined the streets of central London, bringing a temporary halt to Christmas shopping, as they turned out for England's World Cup victory parade.

Waving flags and red and white balloons, fans greeted their World Cup-winning heroes with choruses of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."

Eager supporters got their first glimpse of their heroes when the players emerged from the Intercontinental Hotel on Hyde Park Corner.

Maggie, 81, waited at Marble Arch where the squad started their parade at 1200 GMT on their way to Trafalgar Square.

"I'm very proud of them and I love my country," she said. "I've had a fantastic morning, meeting all these lovely people."

Crowds, 30-people deep in places, along Oxford Circus and Regent Street caused the two team buses to grind to a halt for a few moments.

No one can fail to be affected by the sheer joy of this occasion
Former England international
Jeremy Guscott
The players watched as fans balanced on the top of bus shelters and lamp posts while one daredevil stood on top of a traffic light to reach down and shake hands with Matt Dawson.

Many supporters had braved freezing conditions to be the first to line the barriers at Trafalgar Square - seven hours before the England team's expected arrival time.

Kenny Mathewson camped overnight at Charing Cross station after bringing his sleeping bag all the way down from Cumbria.

"I never thought I'd do that," he said. "But even if England win it again, there won't be anything like this."

Jake Woolf, a 25-year-old student from Chelmsford in Essex, got up at the crack of dawn to get his place in Trafalgar Square.

"There is an element of history about it so it's important to be here for the players," he said.

Many people managed to take a day off work to come down to the capital for the celebrations.

Hannah even persuaded her boss Anna to join in the fun: "We are long-term rugby fans and when we knew we could have the day off work we both decided to come along," Hannah said.

Younger rugby fans were not so lucky as the government and police made it clear that it was just a normal school day.

Even pupils at Jonny Wilkinson's old school, Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, were not allowed to skip classes to cheer him on.

"We would love to have been there and it's very exciting," said head Ian Power. "But we are actually in school and working hard."

"We hope Jonny can bring the Cup to the school but we have already been very lucky because he came to our prize-giving in September."

Former England rugby player Jeremy Guscott said many of the squad would probably find the jubliant scenes overwhelming.

Well done for a fantastic effort - the country is very proud
Former England footballer
Gary Lineker

"No matter who you are you cannot fail to be affected by the sheer joy of this occasion," said Guscott.

"This is a magic, magic moment for them and these are the times when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

"I experienced moments like this with England and Bath but nothing on this scale."

The team buses were welcomed into Trafalgar Square with another rousing chorus of "Swing Low" as thousands of fans prepared to give the team a big send-off before they headed to Buckingham Palace.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone had another surprise for the squad as he awarded them the Freedom of the City of Greater London - the first people ever to receive that honour.

England fans make sure they get a good view of the parade
A pair of England fans make sure they get a good view of the team
"On behalf of London I'd like to say London salutes you," said Livingstone.

Former England rugby captain Bill Beaumont predicted that the victory parade will help carry forward the momemtum from the World Cup.

"This will do enormous things for the sport," said Beaumont. "Rugby now has a chance to make the most of this win."

England's dramatic victory in Australia had already affected 19-year-old Sarah Saunders from west London, who wore a Jonny Wilkinson shirt to the celebrations.

"I've never been to a rugby match but I had to come to this," she said.

"England don't get much to cheer about usually, let's hope this changes that."

Sporting rivalries were also set aside as a sense of goodwill and humour prevailed along the route.

A handful of gold shirts were dotted amongst the crowds as Australian fans turned out to join in the praise of Clive Woodward's squad.

"I came to support all the Aussies because there are not many of us here," Australia fan Andrew said.

"I thought there would be a few more but it seems I'm the only one around!"





Links to more Rugby World Cup stories


 

SEE ALSO
New squabble over rugby reception
07 Dec 03  |  Politics


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