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Home arrow Sports arrow Australia welcomes home Olympians with parade
Australia welcomes home Olympians with parade PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
 
Thousands of cheering, flag-waving Australians turned out yesterday to applaud the Olympic team as Sydney kicked off a series of parades for the athletes who competed in Beijing.
The Australian squad brought home 46 medals, including 14 gold, but slipped two places to sixth on the overall medal table from its performance in Athens in 2004, fostering concerns about its chances in London in 2012.
But debate about the need for more funding for sport to allow Australia to better compete against the likes of China, Britain and the United States fell silent yesterday, as more than 100 athletes were cheered on their march through Sydney.
Thousands lined the streets while workers looked on from office windows as the athletes made their way from the harbour to Sydney Town Hall under spring sunshine accompanied by marching bands and bursts of green and gold tickertape.
Steve Hooker, a surprise gold medal winner in the pole vault, said the parade was a chance to thank tax-payers for their support.
"It's important to go out and share it with the Australian public," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation."It belongs to them as well."
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who presented the team with the keys to the city, praised the athletes for the determination they had shown to complete, including enduring injury and sacrifice.
"We appreciate the strength it takes to overcome all these obstacles and achieve at the highest level," she told the crowd.
"I would like to acknowledge not only your extraordinary performances but pay tribute to the years of effort that came before the Games."
Sprint cyclist Anna Meares, who broke her back just months before the games but won a silver medal in Beijing, said the parade brought home the reality of her achievement.
"I've been surprised how well my story has been received here in Australia," she told the crowd.
Tim Noonan, who was watching the parade to support his brother, rower Daniel Noonan who came fourth in the quad sculls in Beijing, said winning a place on the national team was a "massive achievement."
"To compete at that world level like that, on behalf of the country, is something remarkable. It's a huge achievement," he said.
The Sydney celebration was the first of parades to be held in each state and territory capital which will conclude in the national capital Canberra on September 23.

   
 
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