SPORTING heroes, from Olympic athletes to stars from Leeds United’s heyday, turned up yesterday as Flamingo Land Resort unveiled its latest rollercoaster ride, Hero.

The £8 million investment in the ride and a new dinosaur-themed area called Dino-Stone Park is intended to protect the market share of the theme park, near Pickering.

It also represents job security and new job opportunities for the 500-plus employees, a park spokeswoman said.

The park was ranked as being the most-visited theme park in the UK by Visit England in 2011, but it remains one of the only privately owned and funded parks of its size in Europe.

Stars who appeared on stage before the launch included Leeds United legends Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray, Commonwealth Games diver Oliver Dingley from Harrogate and Gemma Oaten, who plays Rachel Breckle in TV soap Emmerdale.

Singer Lemar then performed on stage to hundreds of fans before cutting a ribbon to launch the ride, which allows riders to ‘‘fly’’ through the sky.

Oliver said later: “ I am used to some heights on the diving board, but this was totally different.

‘‘A lot scarier and a lot faster. So scary, but good fun.”

Gemma said: “I don’t know why, but I laughed all the way through. I haven’t laughed like that in ages.”

Today, the theme park is inviting community and military heroes to enjoy the ride, helped by The Health Lottery, which supports more than 30 charities in the Yorkshire area. Health Lottery ambassadors, boxer Chris Eubank and TV’s Donna Air, are set to turn up for another official ribbon-cutting and members of the armed forces from York and Catterick garrisons, RAF Leeming and Yorkshire Air Ambulance will also be among VIP visitors with their families.


Mike Laycock always fancied flying like Superman. Yesterday he got his chance

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s our reporter Mike Laycock being locked in a cage, waiting rather nervously to fly like Superman.

OK, there wasn’t a telephone box in sight and I remained in my reporter’s suit and there wasn’t a damsel in mortal peril who needed rescuing, at least as far as I could tell, but yesterday I got a decent chance to emulate everyone’s fantasy hero as a new rollercoaster ride opened at Flamingo Land called Hero.

This is not your traditional rollercoaster, with stupid traditional things like seats. Oh, no. In this ride, you lie on your front, safely caged in but still gripping a bar for dear life, and you swoop and dive and fly through the sky, with the car suspended under the track.

As it happens, I was accompanied by Superman, also known as Capital FM presenter Danny Oakes, who just happened to have dressed the part for the day.

So off we went, up we went, slowly round and round a tower, like a helter skelter in reverse, apparently propelled upwards by a unique elevator system.

This was the worst bit. Did I really volunteer to do this, I wondered? Yes, I am mad.

Then we reached the top and were off and there was no time to think. Down, down, then up and round and flipping upside down, briefly experiencing zero gravity.

We were flying! Then Superman brought me down to earth: “I wonder if it chafes like this for Superman?” This can’t get any more surreal, I thought.

All too soon it was over. That wasn’t too bad, I thought, as I staggered off. In fact, it was quite good fun. Ah well, back to the day job.