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Heroes’ welcome in UK for Team GB after an Olympic Games like no other

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Remember that famous scene at the start of the film Love Actually where Hugh Grant’s character tells us that if he ever gets “gloomy” about the state of the world he thinks about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport?

He tells the viewer that “love is everywhere”.

That very scene stuck in my mind today as family and friends of Team GB athletes waited for their plane to touch down.

Laura Price won gold in boxing on the last day of the Olympics Games
Image: Lauren Price won gold in boxing on the last day of the Olympics

To love, Grant’s character could have added respect.

It was a wonderful atmosphere as partners, parents, nieces, nephews and grandparents all kept checking the arrivals screen for news of the plane’s progress.

Flight BA008 from Tokyo landed a few minutes ahead of schedule and the numbers waiting at Heathrow’s T5 grew, with gold medallist Kate French’s family a few metres away from a large contingent who had travelled from Birmingham to cheer boxing gold medallist Galal Yafai.

And how they sang!

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I spoke to Yafai after he had been carried shoulder-high through T5, with his glittering gold medal bouncing off his chest.

Jason Kenny returns to the UK as Britain's most successful Olympian with second gold medal overall and Laura Kenny further added to her medal collection with a gold in the madison
Image: Cycling’s power couple Jason and Laura Kenny pictured with their gold and silver medals from Tokyo

“These people were there for me when I wasn’t an Olympic champion and they are here for me now that I am,” said the softly-spoken Brummie, who previously worked in the Land Rover factory in Solihull.

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Team GB boxer mobbed by his friends

And then came Lauren Price, the boxer from South Wales who won gold and told me how she couldn’t wait to cross the border and get home to see her grandmother.

“The support from people across the country has been incredible, I’m just so, so happy.”

Onboard today’s flight there were eight gold medals, nine silver and three bronze medallists, with Team GB having won a total of 65 medals in these Games.

And they were Games like no other.

Frazer Clarke won bronze in his boxing class and was beaming when he landed in Heathrow
Image: Boxer Frazer Clarke won bronze and was beaming when he landed in Heathrow

Sir Hugh Robertson, chairman of the British Olympic Association, said that out of the 1,000 people Team GB sent to Japan, there was not one single positive COVID-19 test – a truly remarkable achievement.

Britain has become a conveyor belt for producing Olympic medallists and champions.

At the homecoming after the Atlanta 1996 Games there were just a handful of people there to applaud the athletes.

And there was just one, solitary gold medal hanging around the neck of rower Sir Steve Redgrave.

Twenty-five years on and everything has changed.

Team GB finished these Games fourth in the overall medal table and now all thoughts will inevitably turn to Paris 2024.

But for now, these remarkable athletes and their coaches can bask in the love and affection that was there for them today at Heathrow.

Perhaps Hugh Grant’s character had a point.