Olympians Receive Rousing Welcome in Hamburg After Cruise from London
Enlarge image Olympians Sebastian Bayer (left to right), André Höhne, Carolin Nytra, Britta Heidemann und Fabian Hambüchen pose after arriving in Hamburg aboard the MS Deutschland. (© picture alliance / dpa) Flag bearers to the front – field hockey player Natascha Keller and rower Kristof Wilke were the first of 217 athletes from the German Olympic team off the “MS Deutschland” when it came into the Hamburg harbor on Wednesday at 10:45 am. They alit German soil the same way they led the way in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, waving a black, red and gold banner. A jubilant crowd of close to 20,000 people was there to greet them.
“Moin, Moin,” the colloquial northern German “hello,” was displayed on a huge banner hung at the cruise ship docks to welcome the German team home, with the message continuing, “Olympic heroes! Good that you are here.” The two-day journey from South Quay in London was the cherry on top for many of the athletes. “It was a great trip and a really nice finale,” said the happy Olympic veteran Keller who concluded her international career at the 2012 Olympic Games, “that was much nicer than simply getting on a plane and you’re gone.”
After banking 44 medals, sixth in the medal count overall, the good fortune followed the German Olympians at sea. Though Tuesday was a bit hazy with cool winds, they came into dock Wednesday morning lit by bright sunshine and framed by the impressive backdrop of the Hamburg port. The athletes and their friends were packed on the eighth and ninth decks to take it all in. "This is something very special for us all, I had not expected it," marveled gymnast Fabian Hambüchen.
Enlarge image The gold medal winning hockey team enjoys the cheers of fans who came to greet the Olympians arriving in Hamburg Harbor Thursday morning. (© picture alliance / dpa) Close to 60 boats accompanied the cruise ship armada-style on its way up the Elbe River. Chartered barges full of tourists, Elbe ferries and tiny motor dinghies gave the cruiser escort. There were plenty of special surprises as well. "Kathrin and Rieke, we are proud of you," was written on a boat, which was organized by friends of competitive sailors Kathrin Kadelbach and Friederike Belcher. "I knew nothing about it – it's great," enthused Belcher.
Swimmer Steffen Deibler from Hamburg said the trip lived up to the hype, saying he had no regrets that he hitched a ride. The getting-to-know each other, the celebrating and the talking, he said they all considered it very special. “That was really fun,” rasped the stroke of the gold-winning eight-man crew, Kristof Wilke, as he went to sign autographs. He and his fellow Olympians had apparently left their voices on the boat after the two-day party. "Everyone could use a round of cough drops about now," added the triathlete Jan Frodeno with a mischievous laugh. To be received by so many people, gold medal canoeist Franziska Weber commented, was just crazy.