While one million people lined the streets of London to salute Team GB’s greatest team, KATE SCOTTER spoke to the great and good of Norfolk and Waveney who paid tribute to our very own Olympic and Paralympic heroes.

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A sparkling summer of sport came to an end yesterday as a victory parade of hundreds of British Olympic and Paralympic athletes was held in the capital.

Among the 800 sportsmen and women on the 21 open-top floats which made their way through London towards Buckingham Palace were Norfolk and north Suffolk’s Olympians and Paralympians.

Those who could be seen taking in the crowds and enjoying the spectacle were Lowestoft’s boxing bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo, Walpole St Andrew’s Paralympic track cycling bronze medallist Jody Cundy and Taverham’s Mel Clarke who won silver at the Paralympic Games.

The Greatest Team parade came the day after the end of the London 2012 Paralympics and saw the Red Arrows fly over The Mall.

Athletes could be seen taking photos, showing off their medals and thanking the crowds, an army of Games Makers were given their moment of glory as they lined the final section of the route and a giant puppet of the Team GB lion weaved its way through the streets.

During the event, Ogogo, who at one point managed to commandeer a broadcaster’s microphone live on air during the procession, said on social networking site Twitter: “This is totally overwhelming”.

Cundy, who had put the frustration of his controversial false start in his favoured one-kilometre time-trial event behind him to take bronze in the individual C4 pursuit, said: “Words can’t describe this. Magical.”

Meanwhile, MPs, civic leaders and sports champions praised the achievements of all of the athletes from the region.

Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said: “It’s been six or seven weeks that have really shown what Britain is best at both in terms of organisation and performances of our athletes in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“It’s important to remember the army of volunteers who have been so cheerful and helpful.”

Mr Aldous also praised Ogogo who bravely pursued his London 2012 dream despite his mum falling seriously ill weeks before the Games and brought home a silver medal from the boxing ring.

“Anthony has himself had a number of personal issues to address and he rode above them admirably. He has behaved in a way we can all be incredibly proud of him,” said Mr Aldous.

“Lowestoft as a community regards him as our torch bearer and we are incredibly proud of him.

Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth MP, said: “While the Games may be over in London, they are not finished in Great Yarmouth. I look forward to the parade through the town in honour of our gold medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate. She is a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination and the whole of Great Yarmouth and Norfolk should be proud of her.

“It is my sincere hope that the Games will never truly be over in the UK. Britain has always loved sport – from football and rugby to cricket and cycling.

“The difference now, however, is that sport has been taken from the hands of the well paid professional and been returned to normal people. “The Games, especially the Paralympics, have shown us that whatever your age or ability, sport can be a unifying and rewarding experience.”

Athletes from Norfolk and north Suffolk who were in action during the Olympic Games were Norwich’s windsurfer Nick Dempsey, fencer Anna Bentley and cyclist Emma Pooley, Pott Row steeplechaser Barbara Parker, Diss judoka Colin Oates and Lowestoft boxer Ogogo. James Dasaolu, whose parents own Steve McDonald News in Norwich, also had his own fan club in the city.

Those who competed in the Paralympic Games were Clarke, Cundy, Norwich’s wheelchair basketballer Amy Conroy and goalball player Amy Ottaway, Wymondham archer Kenny Allen and Great Yarmouth swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate.

Ben Jones, sports development manager at Active Norfolk, said: “We are really proud of every athlete who has taken part in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games who has got some association with Norfolk, in particular Jessica-Jane Applegate for winning gold.

“It’s great for the people of Norfolk to see someone doing so well on an international stage and hopefully it will inspire the next generation to do the same.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith added: “The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been fantastic for Britain and also for Norfolk. There have been some local successes and there have been some heartbreaks but what the two sets of Games have shown is that we have an amazing spirit in this country.”

It is now hoped that the people of Norfolk will be inspired by all of the athletes who competed in the Olympics and Paralympics and there will be a lasting legacy in the county.

Keith Simpson, Broadland MP, who praised the achievements of Taverham archer Mel Clarke who won silver in the Paralympic Games, said: “People should be inspired by all the athletes, not just those who won medals. In particular it showed just what dedication and skill can achieve.

“What I hope will come out of the Games is that we maintain this community spirit and see opportunities in Norfolk not only in terms of providing facilities but also in supporting activities that take place on our sports fields and schools. We should be proud of the achievements of our Olympians and Paralympians and it should be an inspiration to all those others involved in sport.”

kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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