Thank you very much, Richard. Can I, on behalf of the whole country, congratulate you all – TeamGB and Paralympics GB – on one of the greatest sporting achievements in our history. Well done to all of you.
After London 2012, many wondered whether that medal haul could ever be repeated.
But you didn’t just repeat it, you beat it. And you made Britain the first ever nation to improve its performance at the Olympics and Paralympics following a home Games. So well done.
From the first men’s swimming Gold Medal for 28 years to the first ever British Gold medals in diving, gymnastics and – yes – women’s hockey, you won Gold Medals in more sports than any other nation.
And with an incredible 30 more Paralympic Golds than London 2012, you set a staggering 49 new Paralympic Records and 27 new World Records.
And I have to say, time after time the nation came to a halt as you wrote your names into the history books.
Armies of armchair fans were out there – they stayed up late to follow your progress every night – watching in awe and filled with pride.
And I think it is absolutely right that we should take this moment as a nation to say an enormous and heartfelt thank you to you all.
And it is right too that we should gather here in Manchester, where so many medals were made.
We don’t always get to see the dedication and effort put in behind the scenes.
But I think we can all now understand those cold, dark mornings, those intense training sessions, the years of sacrifice and the unwavering commitment to your passion and your profession and it is an inspiration to us all.
So, too, is the example set by those who have helped you on the way. The incredible support staff – and the love and strength of your friends and families – so many of whom have shared in the sacrifices and so in the highs and lows of your journey.
So today’s celebration is also a thank you to them – so they know that every peak and trough has been worth it to get to that moment where you put on the GB jersey and do your country proud on the biggest stage of all.
But as we gather here today to reflect on another glorious Olympic summer, so we should also look forward with a real sense of optimism.
This summer you didn’t just make history, you helped to shape our future too.
Today in school playgrounds, parks and sports centres across the country, children are dreaming of emulating your success.
There are boys who want to be the next Mo Farah or the next Brownlee brothers.
Girls who want to be the next Laura Kenny or the next Dame Sarah Storey.
Children of every faith and background inspired by the lessons you have taught us – about hard work, dignity, true sportsmanship and above all what it means to be part of a team.
And because of the incredible performance from our Paralympians, there are thousands more people now thinking differently about disability; thousands of people whose first thought about a disabled person is no longer what they can’t do but rather – rightly – what they can do.
So you are changing perceptions and helping to create a better Britain and a better world.
As we gather to celebrate today, I know that many of you are already back in training and looking forward to Tokyo.
Last year the government announced a 29% increase in funding for elite sport. It was a bold statement about our determination to invest in your success.
And that financial commitment will continue under this new government. In 4 years’ time, I want to see another great parade like today’s – after another great summer of success in Tokyo 2020.
This has been, as we saw out there on the stage, a homecoming for heroes, because that is what you are.
Thank you for bringing our country together in a wonderful sense of pride.
Thank you for inspiring generations to follow in your footsteps.
And thank you for making Britain one of the world’s great Olympic and Paralympic Superpowers. Thank you.