BRITISH people will be looking back at a very special summer, Sir Steve Redgrave said, as he reflected on the honour of leading the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant and looked ahead to the Olympics.

The country's greatest ever Olympian took a pivotal role in the Royal celebrations last weekend, heading up the crew of the Gloriana, which led the river procession.

Talking to the Free Press about the historic occasion, where the largest ever flotilla assembled on the Thames was witnessed, he said: “It was a lot of fun, a once in a lifetime experience.

“I think what really sums up the honour is that when I was asked by Lord Stirling, who had the boat built and was organising things on the Gloriana side, everyone I then asked to be involved in it, said 'yes, definitely'.

“They were all desperate to do it and were so excited as well.”

The Gloriana was the first royal boat barge to be made in 200 years.

Speaking at Marlow Town Regatta, Sir Steve said it conjured images, depicted in films, of row barges with Henry VIII on up at Hampton Court.

He said: "There was a real sense of history and to be involved in the pageant and jubilee was absolutely fantastic.”

Asked what he thought of the huge turnout for the event, he said: “I wasn't surprised. The bulk of the British public love our tradition and the royal family, especially the Queen. It's a good excuse for a bit of pomp and ceremony.

“There was a little bit for everybody in some ways. The river pageant, which is now in the Guinness book of records as the biggest there's ever been. Then you had the parade, the service at St Pauls.”

He said there was more to be excited about, with the upcoming Olympics.

He said: “I think it's going to be a really special year and a year that the British people in these hard times can be really proud of.”

And he expects a big medal haul for team GB.

“It's the strongest rowing team we've ever had going into a games, there's lot of pressure on them but I think they're up for the challenge and it could be our best rowing team ever,” he said.