No Olympic parade for Greg Rutherford

Greg Rutherford - no parade for Olympic medalllist
Greg Rutherford - no parade for Olympic medalllist
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OLYMPIC gold medal hero Greg Rutherford will not be honoured with a parade through the streets of the city.

Yesterday Milton Keynes Council revealed there will be no city-wide celebrations to honour our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

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Instead they will be invited to a lunch reception at stadium:mk ahead of MK Dons’ match against Crewe Alexandra, where they will also take part in a half-time lap of honour.

But council officers admitted it is ‘unlikely’ long jump champion Rutherford will be able to attend that event.

Residents wanting to honour the city’s most successful Olympian ever will have the opportunity to welcome their hero by lining the streets of Woburn Sands.

This week Woburn Sands Town Council revealed it has organised a celebratory open bus parade for Rutherford – just one day before the council’s own event is due to take place.

Greg Rutherford after his Olympic victory

Greg Rutherford after his Olympic victory

And the Citizen can today reveal the full extent of the farce behind plans to organise a city-wide celebration.

This newspaper has found that many of the eight MK based athletes who competed during the summer have not even been contacted by the council or won’t be able to attend.

Council officers and members of the Mayor’s Office, which is organising the MK event, met yesterday to try to iron out the details.

The late talks came despite the fact it is six weeks since Rutherford won gold on August 4 – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ and seen as one of the greatest ever nights of British sport.

Rutherford took the top prize with a leap of 8.31 metres, while Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah were also victorious in a thrilling 45 minutes of sport.

Late yesterday the council unveiled plans for the Dons event, which it says will honour athletes, coaches, judges, games makers and torch bearers.

As well as the lunch reception and lap of honour, sports groups will hold interactive demonstrations outside the stadium giving people the chance to try a new sporting activity.

There has been confusion over plans for a celebration after a council statement was released last week – and then promptly withdrawn.

Those proposals included a reception at the council offices, followed by a presentation at Campbell Park.

The activities at Campbell Park now seem to have been scrapped – but not before an advert was placed in other local media advertising the event as ‘a special day of celebrations’ at Campbell Park from 11.30am.

The advert also said ‘a presentation will be made to Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford’ – something that won’t now be happening.

The council has always insisted the delay in organising an event to honour Rutherford was because it would be better to do something for all of the city’s Olympians and Paralympians after they competed. However, we have learned that some of those in question have had absolutely no contact with the council, and if they have, they can’t make the day in question anyway.

A council spokesman said invitations had gone out, but we spoke to Olympic handball captain Bobby White and Paralympic stars fencer Gabi Down and footballer Alistair Patrick-Heselton who said they hadn’t even been approached. And Steven Baggaley – brother and agent of Olympic table tennis competitor Andrew – told us he had only received an email inviting Andrew to the event on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Andrew is competing in another event in Germany on the September 29 and javelin thrower Mervyn Luckwell had not been contacted but couldn’t attend anyway.

Yesterday, The Citizen wasn’t able to contact the two remaining athletes – cyclist Ian Stannard and wheelchair basketball star Simon Munn.

A source within Greg Rutherford’s camp said: “It’s a complete joke. Why couldn’t the council have acted straight away like most other towns and cities did for their Olympic champions.

“The whole plan seems to have revolved around the MK Dons but that date doesn’t work for everyone.”

Someone close to another of our Olympians added: “What a shambles. They should have just done something for Greg – it was an incredible achievement but they have somehow made a mess of it.

“Do something for the others afterwards of course, but why wait when you have an Olympic champion? He should have been celebrated.

“If they had thrown a few dates at us we could have worked around it and sorted it out. But it had to be September 29 because that was the MK Dons Family Fun Day.”

MK Council has already received criticism that the event should have taken place much sooner after Rutherford captured gold, but had argued it wanted to hold a celebration to honour all the city athletes who competed at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Speaking to this newspaper on August 9, council leader Councillor Andrew Geary said: “Of course we’re planning on doing something, not just for Greg, but for all our Olympians.”

But Paralympian Gabi Down, 14, hasn’t even been contacted by the council.

She told the Citizen: “I would love to go, but I haven’t been invited.”

And Alistair Patrick-Heselton also said he had not been invited to any event.

A council spokesman said ‘some of the athletes have been contacted via agents or email, which may explain why they’ve not spotted the invitation as yet’.

When approached yesterday, Mr Geary said the organisation of the event was ‘nothing to do’ with him and was instead being run through the Mayor’s Office.

Councillor Lee Barney, who has previously criticised the council for not holding a separate event for Rutherford, said: “I don’t blame Woburn Sands for picking up the slack.

“I blame the leader, Andrew Geary. He should have sorted this out.

“Greg Rutherford put in four years of training and we can’t even put in four minutes of effort to organise something.”

Milton Keynes Mayor Councillor Catriona Morris said: “We know many people have made an enormous contribution to the success of the Olympics and Paralympics, and I am looking forward to meeting and thanking them all in person.

“So many people have been inspired by TeamGB and ParalympicsGB athletes, and there are hundreds of ways to get involved and get active in Milton Keynes.

“We know Greg is extremely busy at present, and we had originally organised an event around his availability. As Greg will be appearing in Woburn Sands on Friday, September 28 for a parade, people still have an opportunity to cheer him on in person, and I’m sure the crowds will be out in force to show their support.”

The council is calling for residents who supported the games as coaches, judges, games makers or torch bearers to contact The Mayor’s Office at mayorsoffice@milton-keynes.gov.uk or call 01908 252375 for their invitation to the reception.