Euro 2016: Wales players to get homecoming celebration

Wales celebrate qualifying for the 2016 European Championships Image copyright Reuters

A special homecoming event to welcome back Wales' Euro 2016 team is being held in Cardiff on Friday.

A celebratory open top bus tour will leave from Cardiff Castle and Manic Street Preachers will play to an expected sell-out crowd of more than 33,000 fans at Cardiff City Stadium.

It will be followed by a player presentation.

Wales fans have praised the team's heroics at Euro 2016, saying it had changed Welsh football forever.

Tickets for the homecoming concert were being offered first to supporters who were members of the Euros qualifying campaign.

They were then going on general release to the public from 12:30 BST on Thursday - with two tickets being allocated per person.

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Media captionFans sing 'Don't take me home' on the streets of Cardiff after the semi final match, despite their team being knocked out of the tournament

Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "We feel this event is a great way of everyone celebrating what has been a historic period for Welsh football.

"The scenes we have seen both at home and over in France have been fantastic and we hope that our passionate supporters can enjoy another moment with the players to end a memorable few weeks."

All roads in the city centre will be closed from 14:30 until 17:30 for the open top bus parade, while a few streets will remain closed to traffic until 18:00.

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Media captionBus route: Wales players expected to be greeted by thousands of fans

The players will board the bus at Cardiff Castle at 16:00, before it makes its way down High Street and St Mary Street on to Wood Street.

There it will turn right on to Westgate Street, before turning left at the Holiday Inn and crossing the River Taff.

The tour will proceed down Wellington Street, turn on to Leckwith Road, then finish at Cardiff City Stadium at 17:30.

Events at Cardiff City Stadium will begin at 17:15, with turnstiles open at 17:00.

A player and staff presentation and question and answer session will begin at 18.45.

BBC Wales will follow the homecoming celebrations on television, radio and online in English and in Welsh.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of BBC Wales, said: "The Wales football team has inspired a nation during this tournament, which has seen record numbers of viewers in Wales watch, share and be part of their historic achievements."

Image caption Gareth Bale begins his journey back to Wales
Image caption Aaron Ramsey (middle) and Hal Robson-Kanu (r) get on team bus in Lyon

Viewing figures

Almost half Wales' population watched last night's ITV match coverage, with figures peaking at 1.327 million viewers.

From kick-off to final whistle, the match averaged an audience of 1.2 million, a 74% share.

Across the UK, the number of viewers peaked at 15.4 million.

The figure is just behind 1.379 million viewers who watched the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012 - the highest peak audience in Wales this century.

Image caption Chris Coleman with wife Charlotte and son Finlay in Lyon on Thursday

'A thrilling journey'

First Minister Carwyn Jones praised both the team and the Welsh fans, and said it had been "a thrilling journey and one which had gripped the nation".

"We have a unique culture, unique values and unique people - something which is now recognised by billions of people all over the world," he said.

"The performance on the pitch has been magnificent, the impression our fans have left on France and the rest of the world equally so - you've all done your country very, very proud."

Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives have backed a campaign for a north Wales homecoming event.

Montgomeryshire AM Russell George said: "Following the tournament, it'd be fantastic for people in all parts of Wales to have the opportunity to welcome the team back."

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