Rio Olympics: Andy Murray hailed as inspiration behind high-flying GB
Andy Murray was credited with inspiring Team GB's greatest overseas Olympic Games as a squad of triumphant athletes arrived home from Rio on a gold-nosed Boeing 747.
Flying home on a chartered British Airways flight, BA2016, the team were shown singing "God Save The Queen" ahead of take-off - with BA providing 77 extra bottles of champagne on a special plane emblazoned with 'victoRIOus' - and also took the opportunity to post selfies from the cockpit and gathered with their team-mates in the cabin.
Having exceeded their haul from the London Olympics, Great Britain brought back 67 medals from Brazil as a large number of athletes arrived at Heathrow yesterday morning to be greeted by friends, family and supporters.
Double gold-medallist Max Whitlock tried out some of his gymnastics routine on the first-class seats and he and champion boxer Nicola Adams were the first two stars to emerge from the plane, standing at the top of the stairs as the rest of the athletes filed out to cheers and applause.
Although both were absent on Tuesday, Team GB chef de mission Mark England was full of praise for Murray and golfer Justin Rose, revealing how a rousing speech from Murray on the eve of the Games had spurred the team to go on to glory.
England said: "We had some very, very high-profile athletes in the team in a way that we hadn't necessarily had before.
"Justin Rose is a good example of that and Andy Murray was defending his title from London.
"Andy was the flag-bearer and spoke to all of the team before the opening ceremony, spoke really eloquently about being part of Team GB and the importance of everybody doing everything they could to replicate London.
"Justin has been absolutely outstanding, not only in the support of the Great Britain Olympic team but of golf in the Olympics as well, and to have athletes of that stature in addition to athletes who have medalled in five consecutive games and others defending titles, which they did absolutely successfully, was a very powerful thing."
Adam Peaty began Great Britain's record medal rush and is now hoping his achievements can continue to build Team GB's growing legacy.
Peaty, who broke the 100m breaststroke world record twice on his way to securing Team GB's first medal in Rio as he sealed the gold, is hoping for a chance to replicate the achievements of a host of medal winners who became instant household names following 2012.
"Sport is a massively powerful thing," he said.
"There is no language barrier and I can shake the hand with China and Russia, athletes that don't speak any English, but it doesn't matter."
Rower Katherine Grainger won Olympic gold four years ago and the 40-year-old sealed silver this time around to take her Olympic medal tally to five.
"The London Games were a huge inspiration for the nation," she said. "The nice thing about sport is that it unites people and lifts people and for a short while at least you can have some good news stories."