Britain’s sporting elite has been rewarded in a New Year honours list in which Rio Olympic medallists Andy Murray and Mo Farah are made knights and Katherine Grainger and Jessica Ennis-Hill become dames.
Olympians and Paralympians make up 10% of the 2017 list, which also includes knighthoods for Kinks frontman Ray Davies, 72, comedian Ken Dodd, 89, actor Mark Rylance, 56, and a damehood for actor Patricia Routledge, 87.
Murray’s honour caps a remarkable year for the Scot, who claimed a second Wimbledon title, defended his Olympic crown and took the world number one slot from Novak Djokovic in an extraordinary run of form. Aged 29, he is among the youngest to be awarded a knighthood in modern times and had once said he felt too young for such an accolade.
Four-time Olympic gold distance runner Mo Farah, 33, said of his knighthood: “I am so happy to be awarded this incredible honour from the country that has been my home since I moved here at the age of eight. Looking back at the boy who arrived here from Somalia, not speaking any English, I could never have imagined where I would be today – it is a dream come true.”
Sir Roger Bannister, 87, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, is made a companion of honour – the highest award. So, too, is percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, and political veteran Baroness Shirley Williams.
Among the 1,197 people honoured, Anna Wintour, 67, editor-in-chief of US Vogue becomes a dame in the diplomatic and overseas list for services to fashion and journalism. Designer and former pop singer Victoria Beckham, 42, receives an OBE for services to the fashion industry, matching the honour given to her husband, David, 13 years ago.
This year sees the highest number of awards to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background recipients, who make up 9.3% of the successful candidates. Awards include a damehood for nursing pioneer Prof Elizabeth Anionwu, and a knighthood for Cambridge chemist and DNA expert Prof Shankar Balasubramanian.
The honours list is put together by nine independent committees set up by the Cabinet Office, and this year there are equal numbers of male and female recipients. A small number of honours are in the Queen’s personal gift, and included a knighthood for adventurer David Hempleman-Adams, 60, who said he was astonished to be made a knight commander of the Victorian order in recognition of his services to the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.
In recognising Britain’s historic success at the summer Olympics, sporting stars were honoured not just for sporting excellence, but also for their contribution to giving back to their sport or community, the length of their career achievement and any previous honours.
Glasgow-born Grainger, 41, the first female Olympian to win five medals at five games, becomes a dame for services to rowing and charity, said it was “such a lovely honour to get”.
“What is lovely when you hear the titles and the names of the New Year honours list, if anything it makes you feel you have to step up again. It is something to live up to – it is almost like a new standard,” she said.
“The honour is for sport, but also for charity, and I think that it is lovely that a lot of athletes have been able to give a lot back, and it is some of the areas I will probably go into when I move into other worlds and be able to do more charity work”.
Heptathlete Ennis-Hill, 30, who like Grainger is now a dame and has also now retired from competitive sport, added silver at the 2016 games to her gold in London, and was already a CBE. Highly decorated Paralympic equestrian Lee Pearson, who already had the MBE, OBE and CBE for services to equestrianism and to disabled sport, is knighted.
Max Whitlock, 23, from Basildon, who won double gymnastics gold at Rio, said receiving an MBE was “an amazing feeling”. “It looks pretty cool to see my name with an MBE on the end of it. I’m very proud, and it gives me a lot of motivation.” Whitlock, who is getting married in 2017, added: “As an athlete I never expected to receive it and to be recognised is amazing”.
Para-swimmer Ellie Robinson, 15, who took both gold and bronze at Rio, said she hoped to inspire others as Ellie Simmonds had inspired her. Of her MBE she said: “If a 15-year-old with a disability can do it then anyone can do it. They have so much diversity in the awards now, and it just keeps getting better every year.”
Bishop James Jones, 68, former Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Hillsborough independent panel which led to the quashing of the original inquests, receives a knighthood. He described the honour as a “salute” to the Hillsborough families. “It is a great honour but it is obviously tinged with sadness because of the enduring sense of loss the families have,” he said.
Acclaimed photojournalist and war photographer Donald McCullin, 81, who worked on the Observer and the Sunday Times, said he felt “inwardly warmed” by his knighthood. Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner, Vera Baird QC, is made a dame for services to women and equality. Justine Roberts, co-founder and CEO of Mumsnet, is made a CBE.
The prime minister, Theresa May, is setting new priorities for future honours lists. She wants particular focus on services and work with children and young people, and those who have encouraged social mobility. She also wants emphasis on those who work against all forms of discrimination and for the list to reflect the merits and achievements of people from all walks and parts of the United Kingdom.
Television presenter and cancer campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood, 68, former face of BBC’s Watchdog programme, said she had turned down an MBE, believing the honours system to be unfair, and calling for it to be overhauled to “drag the country into the 21st century”.
She said she did not know who put her name forward for her work in consumer safety, but she felt she would have been a hypocrite to accept it. She objected to the word “empire” on the end of it, and “just wouldn’t accept it while we still have party donors donating huge amounts of money and getting an honour”.