IT was with enormous pleasure and pride that I along with the many thousands of Mansfield residents, my wife and I witnessed and were part of Rebecca Adlington's homecoming and grand tour of the town centre last Tuesday.
It was a truly magical experience and one that must boost the spirits of a community in regular receipt of bad news and publicity on account of its crime, drugs and problems of antisocial behaviour.
We walked down from the Civic Centre to the Market Place. It was packed and the atmosphere electric long before Rebecca and her lovely family arrived on the very slow moving open top bus. The activities were so superbly stage managed by BBC television and Radio Nottingham that we all knew we were in for a wonderful celebration. As the noise from the crowds ascended and from where we were standing, I became very emotional and quiet for a few minutes.
The last time I was part of such a unique experience was when I was four years old. I was sitting on some man's shoulders, it was dark, there were fireworks and we all waved our union flags. The bunting quivered in the breeze and, not that I knew the words at the time, everyone sang 'Land of Hope and Glory' with incredible gusto. The date was August 10th, 1945. It was VE Day, the Second World War in Europe had ended. I had yet to become acquainted with my father who was still in North Africa.
As Mansfield's first born and bred Olympian, may I say that Rebecca's achievements have been a long time coming, some 44 years later than my own first encounter on the world's greatest sporting stage and let us all hope that she will not be the last Olympian the town can boast about.
And as a matter of interest, the number of Mansfield schoolchildren who have risen to such heights totals four and Brunts School can account for three of them and the fourth one attended Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for boys. Appearing in my second year at Brunts was a tall chap from Leeds. His father had been dispatched to become the manager at Midland Bank on Leeming Street.
He was in my form, he was a highly talented sprinter and his name was Adrian Metcalfe. The family returned to Leeds after he had completed his GCE 'O' levels.
He became European 200m champion in 1962 and as part of the GB 4x400m relay team in the Tokyo Olympics (1964), he won a silver medal. The QEGS boy was David Cropper, an 800m runner of great potential who reached the semi-final stages of the Mexico City (1968) and Munich (1972) Games.
Rebecca has done the town an immeasurable service and long may it continue. The Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Egginton and his colleagues have acknowledged this and their respect was evident last Tuesday in the market place of market places and at the Civic Centre on that occasion. In my opinion, it knocked any football team's achievements and later parade into a cocked hat.
Well done Rebecca and well done Tony.