Peterborough’s Olympic silver medallists Louis Smith and Nick Dempsey were among Great Britain’s triumphant Olympians who touched down at Heathrow today (August 23) following the most successful Games in more than a century.
A total of 320 athletes and support staff travelled back from Rio in a gold-nosed British Airways Boeing 747 with “victoRIOus” emblazoned on the side.
Stars including swimmer Adam Peaty and rower Helen Glover will face a media press conference shortly at the Sofitel Heathrow hotel.
Athletes posted selfies with medals and glasses of champagne on board the flight as they celebrated becoming the first country to better a home medal count at the following Olympics.
Team GB won 67 medals - 27 golds - and finished second in the table behind the USA.
Many stars of London 2012 successfully defended their crowns four years on, including Mo Farah on the track, Nicola Adams in the boxing ring and Jade Jones on the taekwondo mats.
Just over 35% of British athletes who went to Rio returned with a medal - including every single track cycling member.
As the plane touched down gymnast Louis, who won a silver medal in the pommel, tweeted: “Homeeeeeee. #greattobeBAck @British_Airways thank you for such an amazing flight back safe and sound.”
As crowds waited in Terminal 5 arrivals at Heathrow, rowing champion Alex Gregory tweeted a picture showing scores of identical bags on the ground at Heathrow, asking: “Anyone seen my red bag? @TeamGB #Olympics”.
Windsurfing silver medallist Nick Dempsey, who grew up in Peterborough, did the same, tweeting: “Mine’s the red one!!”.
Trampolinist Kat Driscoll told BBC News as soon as BA2016 landed: “It’s been incredible, they played the national anthem before we left. It has been a really nice way to end it.”
Speaking about how it was different to London 2012, she said: “All the extra emotions you normally get from a crowd you have to get from your team mates. That part I have really, really enjoyed.”
Rower Helen Glover tweeted: “Team GB just stood up before the flight left and belted out ‘God save the Queen’ as it played over the tannoy. #proud”
Hockey gold medallist Susannah Townsend tweeted a picture of the hockey team with the caption: “Memories that will last a lifetime!! Time to head home! Thank you Rio, you have been amazing! @TeamGB #greattobeBAck”
Athletes took selfies in the cockpit wearing pilot hats, posing with their medals and sipping champagne, sharing the images on social media.
Images from the journey show double gold medal-winning gymnast Max Whitlock performing a handstand during the flight.
He and boxer Adams emerged first from the plane with their gold medals on display, waving and posing for the cameras.
The rest of the team then streamed down the stairs and assembled for pictures at the bottom. They were greeted by cheers and applause from the waiting press and airport staff.
Track athlete Asha Philip tweeted a video showing the team singing God Save The Queen on board the flight.
Kayaker Rachel Cawthorn tweeted: “Just arrived home in a@teamgb chartered @British_airways plane and it’s #greattobeBAck!!”
Kayak gold medal winner Joe Clarke tweeted a selfie from the top of the plane stairs with the caption: “What a reception! We’re home..... Bringing home the great @TeamGB #selfieonthesteps”.
As did Alistair Brownlee, the triathlon gold medal winner, with the caption: “So #goodtobBAck. What a welcome”.
The athletes hugged the cabin crew as they left the plane with their luggage.
Gold medal rower Matt Langridge tweeted: “Think there might be someone famous on my flight, we have a welcome party #GreattobeBAck”.
mong the breakout performers were three-times cycling gold medallist Jason Kenny, who matched Sir Chris Hoy’s record six golds and his fiancee, Laura Trott, who secured two gold medals of her own.
Kenny, who returned earlier with Trott, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday: “It still feels a bit surreal, to be honest with you. I just noticed earlier today that it was still less than a week ago that we were racing in Rio, which is bizarre.
“It is now sinking in. As we go out for dinner, people are coming up and saying ‘Well done’ and buying us drinks - I don’t think we have bought a single drink since we have come back.”
The Team GB Twitter feed showed a picture of people draped in Union flags with the caption: “The welcome home party has started in #Heathrow #GreattobeBAck #VictoRIOus”.
It also tweeted family members watching and waiting with the caption: “The moment when you spot your loved ones have landed at #Heathrow #VictoRIOus #greattobeBAck”.
The athletes headed to terminal 5 arrivals at Heathrow after sorting out their luggage, with the rowers first to get through.
Friends, family, media and general well-wishers came to greet the Olympic heroes on their return, adorned with union flags, welcome banners and red, white and blue balloons.
The stars were greeted by cheers, applause and screams, with many supporters rushing to embrace and hug their loved ones and friends after weeks spent thousands of miles away.
Children crouched in front of the barriers clutching small British flags, desperate to glimpse the sporting stars.
Pictures showed fans lining platforms and viewing stations, filling the airport hallways and waiting to welcome Team GB home.