Wiggins, who claimed his fourth Olympic gold, receives knighthood
Cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Sarah Storey, sailor Ben Ainslie and a host of Olympic and Paralympic athletes have received awards in a highly patriotic New Year honours list, specially expanded to reflect Britain’s sporting success at London 2012.
Wiggins, who claimed his fourth Olympic gold days after becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France, receives a knighthood — so he will be Sir Bradley — as does Ainslie, a gold medallist at four consecutive Games. Storey becomes Dame Sarah in recognition of her Paralympic career, in which she has won a record — equalling 11 gold medals in swimming and cycling.
Sebastian Coe, already a Lord, becomes a Companion of Honour in recognition of his work as chair of the Olympics organising committee, Locog, and the chief executive of the Games, Paul Deighton, is knighted. The unprecedented expansion in the number of honours awarded to sporting figures — 123 gongs compared to 44 last year — means every British gold medallist at London 2012 has now been awarded an honour.
Outside of sport, Professor Peter Higgs, the physicist who gave his name to the “God particle” which scientists believe they discovered this year, becomes a Companion of Honour. The award carries no title but is granted to no more than 65 recipients at any one time.
There are knighthoods for illustrator Quentin Blake, famous for the Roald Dahl books; Peter Hendy, commissioner of Transport for London; industrial designer Kenneth Grange; and Jonathan Evans, head of MI5, the British national security agency. Martin Narey, ministerial adviser on adoption, gains a knighthood, as does Hector Sants, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, who raised eyebrows when he announced this month that he was to take up a post as head of compliance at scandal-hit Barclays .
The artist Tracey Emin and choreographer Arlene Phillips receive CBEs, along with the singer Kate Bush and Cherie Blair, for services to women’s issues and charity. Actor Ewan McGregor gets an OBE, and an MBE goes to cricketer Mark Ramprakash.
Almost three-quarters of those honoured are ordinary people who have made a notable contribution to their community, often without recognition. Just under half of those honoured, 47%, are women, up from 41% last year, but the proportion of ethnic minority recipients has fallen from 7% to 5%.
Wiggins said he had never seen himself as a knight “and I probably never will”. “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.” Storey was “speechless but incredibly honoured and extremely proud” to accept her DBE. “I never expected any additional awards after my sporting success, I love competing for my country and that is a huge honour in itself.” Gold medallists Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis and Katherine Grainger receive CBEs, as does David Weir, the paralympic cyclist who won four golds and whom some had tipped for a knighthood. Tennis player Andy Murray, cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, and equestrian riders Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Christiansen receive OBEs, along with the paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who at 18 is believed to be one of the youngest recipients of the award.
Among those given MBEs are boxer Nicola Adams, gymnast Louis Smith and paralympic sprinter Johnny Peacock. Alistair Brownlee, who took gold in the triathlon, becomes an MBE, but his brother Jonathan, who won bronze, does not appear on the list.
Many of those behind London 2012’s sporting success are also honoured. Dave Brailsford and David Tanner, performance directors of the Team GB cycling and rowing squads, are knighted. London 2012’s sport director Debbie Jevans receives a CBE; Jean Tomlin, the human resources director behind the hugely successful Games Maker programme, an OBE; and Deborah Hale, producer of the torch relay, an MBE. The designer of the Team GB kit, Stella McCartney, receives an OBE.
The special Olympic and Paralympic list, and the 286 British Empire Medals awarded to people who contributed to their local communities, reflected “a desire to expand the honours system and make sure we’re extending their reach”, said a spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which co-ordinates the honours.
Asked about Weir’s surprise omission from the list of new knights, he said the sporting awards were judged according to a number of criteria, including whether they were still competing and stood a good chance of future success, “otherwise there’s a difficulty that the committee would have nowhere else to go”.
In accordance with the “strategic direction” for the awards set by the prime minister, philanthropy was a key theme, the spokesman said, and there are knighthoods for Michael Heller and Martin Smith, who have donated money to education and other good causes. Terry Bramall, who established a charitable trust with a gross donation of GBP96m, gets a CBE.
Quentin Blake, whose award recognises his work commissioning art for hospitals, as well as his involvement in the House of Illustration, a museum and gallery due to open in 2014, said: “I think of it as quite a nice 80th birthday present. But I think it is even more valuable to me because it is for things that aren’t finished, it relates to projects that are still ongoing.” Kenneth Grange, 83, whose designs include the first parking meters, the 1997 London taxi, the rural post box, and (his favourite) the nose cone of the British Rail InterCity 125 high speed train, said he was “chuffed to bits”.
The second world war codebreaker, Raymond “Jerry” Roberts, 92, receives the MBE for services to Bletchley Park. One of four founder members of the Testery sections, involved with the “Tunny” project — breaking the German high command’s top—level code — he has campaigned for recognition of Bletchley Park’s “4Ts”. He said he was “delighted” it has finally come. Tunny decrypts are credited with helping to shorten the war by at least two years.
Order of the Bath For service of the highest calibre. It has a civil and military division and is awarded in the following ranks : Knight Grand Cross (GCB), Knight/Dame Commander (KCB/DCB) and Companion (CB).
Order of St Michael and St George Awarded to British subjects for extraordinary and important services abroad or in the Commonwealth. In order: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight/Dame Commander (KCMG/DCMG) and Companion (CMG). Orders of the British Empire Awarded mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service and other distinctions. In order: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).
— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012