London: Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins led a parade of Olympic champions whose achievements in a remarkable summer of sport in Britain were recognised in the New Year Honours list on Saturday.
The cyclist receives a knighthood, making him Sir Bradley, as did sailor Ben Ainslie, heading a glittering list of gold medal winners from the London Olympics.
Heptathlete Jessica Ennis, cyclist Victoria Pendleton and runner Mo Farah were all made CBEs, or Commanders of the Order of the British Empire.
Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour, said: “I never ever imagined that I would ever become a knight so it’s an incredible honour.
“But there’s a slight element of disbelief and it will take a while to sink in.
“It’s not something I’ll use on a daily basis, but it’s nice to have in the trophy cabinet as the ultimate accolade as a sportsman, being knighted by your country for not only the success this year but 12 years now of consistent work and performing — four Olympic Games, seven medals.”
Wiggins, 32, said there had been “never any doubt” that he would accept the honour — some have refused it in the past on principle — but added: “It was more a case that I never saw myself as a sir, and I probably never will.”
Several British newspapers ran with the headline “Arise, Sir Wiggo”, referring to him by his nickname.
Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor in history, said his knighthood was an “incredible honour”, adding: “When I set out Olympic sailing twenty years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen.”
US Open champion Andy Murray was rewarded for becoming the first British man to win a Grand Slam title for 76 years with an OBE, or Order of the British Empire.
There was also recognition for the chief organiser of the London Games, Sebastian Coe, who was made a Companion of Honour (CH).
Away from sport, Professor Peter Higgs, who gave his name to the Higgs boson, or so-called “God particle”, which was finally proved to exist in July, 48 years after he first proposed it, was also made a Companion of Honour.
Actor Ewan McGregor and fashion designer Stella McCartney were both awarded OBEs — there was an Olympic link for the Beatle’s daughter as she designed the British team kit for sportswear manufacturer Adidas.
One notable name missing from the list was Danny Boyle, who created the epic Olympic opening ceremony. The director of Slumdog Millionaire is believed to have turned down an honour.
Cherie Blair, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, was given a CBE in recognition of her service to women’s issues and to charities in Britain and abroad.
She has championed breast cancer charities, organisations for the homeless and is president of the Loomba Foundation, which campaigns to alleviate the plight of widows around the world.
Artist Tracey Emin, whose most famous work in her early career was an unmade bed littered with condoms and a pair of knickers, completed her journey from controversy to respectability by being awarded a CBE.
She said: “I think they pushed me in at the deep end. But I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s been insane trying to keep it a secret but I’m really looking forward to seeing the look on my mum’s face.”
Among honours for politicians, Britain’s first woman foreign minister Margaret Beckett was given a DBE, making her a dame, in recognition of a parliamentary career spanning almost 40 years.
From the world of TV, comedy writer Jeremy Lloyd, the 82-year-old who co-wrote popular shows such as ‘Allo ‘Allo and Are You Being Served?, was awarded an OBE for his services to comedy.
The head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, Jonathan Evans was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for a long career dedicated to fighting terrorism.
He took over the job at a time of intense public focus on the agency in the wake of the July 7, 2005 bombings of London’s transport network.