Triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, and double-gold Paralympian Kadeena Cox were the guests of honour at the festive light spectacular on the Headrow.
Alistair said: “It’s a great honour and the Christmas lights have been a part of our Christmasses as long as we can remember.
“We’re proud to be from Leeds we’ve spent our whole lives here really so we are appreciative of what the city has given us in terms of support, the facilities we train with, the beautiful countryside around it and now, of course the triathlon in Leeds. That was a really, really special day for us so it’s brilliant. It feels like capping off a really nice year.”
Jonny said: “It’s a massive honour to be here and represent Leeds.
“I’m a very proud Leeds person and everywhere I go I like to represent the city.
“I always knew Leeds was a very good city but now it’s become an incredible city.”
Kadeena said: “I’m so excited, it’s my home city, I love this city and I remember coming here as a little girl to watch the Christmas lights be switched on so to be on the other side is crazy and an absolute honour. It’s crazy to think I have managed to be a part of something that has been so amazing. Two years ago I never never would have expected to be in this position so to be here and be a part of it and add to the history is incredible.”
Girl band Stooshe, who had a top 10 hit with their single Black Heart as well as a UK top 10 album, also performed on the main stage. The choir Voice of the Day, young R&B singer Cole LC and a sneak preview of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Strictly Ballroom musical were just some of the main stage entertainments before a huge fireworks display and switch-on.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “Tonight has been an incredible occasion, and we’ve seen thousands of people of all ages come together at the heart of the city centre to get the festive season officially underway.
“It was particularly special to see our Rio heroes Ali and Jonny Brownlee and Kadeena Cox on stage this evening and to hear the amazing reception they received from the crowd.
“These three phenomenal athletes are outstanding ambassadors for Leeds and I hope tonight has once again emphasised the pride and gratitude the city has for the unforgettable sporting memories they gave us this summer.”