Australia salutes Olympians despite disappointments

20 Aug 2012 07:47:02

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Australia on Monday officially welcomed home its Olympic team with a colourful parade led by a red London bus and featuring and Brazilian dancers, despite the country's worst showing in 20 years.

Thousands lined Sydney's main George Street to wave flags and cheer on the sporting stars as they made their way to the Town Hall.

"It's beautiful," said basketballer Lauren Jackson, who carried Australia's flag at the opening ceremony of the Games and whose team, the Opals, won the bronze medal.

"The support that we have from the Australian community has been unbelievable and to be walking through this is actually quite emotional right now for me."

Australia's medal haul was down on expectations, with just seven golds leaving the team with its worst victory tally since 1992.

The nation finished 10th on the medal table -- a slump from its performance in Beijing where it claimed 6th position -- leading to a rush of criticism that the team under performed.

Swimmer James Magnussen, the 100m freestyle world champion hyped as the country's great Olympic swimming hope who lost gold by a split second, admitted he had been "copping a bit of a hammering in the media".

"But the people who matter, my friends and family and the general public have just been amazing," he told the ABC ahead of the parade.

Those who won medals were sporting them proudly around their necks during the parade, among them cyclist Anna Meares who won gold in London by pipping British arch-rival Victoria Pendleton.

"It's still sinking in how it has been received back home in Australia," she said of her victory.

The Australian team was given the keys to the City of Sydney, a gesture that Lord Mayor Clover Moore said was a fitting tribute.

"It is ceremonial and it is symbolic and it is a way of saying you are very, very special," Moore said.

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