Madrid welcomes the campeones
They came in their hundreds of thousands to claim their own piece of history. Madrid city centre came to a standstill as Vicente del Bosque's world champions arrived back from South Africa to present the World Cup to the nation.
Fans lined Gran Via, Paseo de Recoletos and Cibeles for hours hoping for a fleeting glimpse of La Furia Roja as their open-air bus snaked its way though the streets of the capital.
By the banks of the Manzanares, next to the Puente Del Rey bridge, 150,000 had gathered in sweltering conditions where the players were due to arrive at 10pm to be presented at a specially constructed stage.
The players touched down at around 3pm and a rainbow of water jetting from two fire engines framed their aeroplane. "Proud of Our Team," the fuselage of their Iberia plane read. Iker Casillas was first to emerge with the cup held aloft, followed by Del Bosque - whose permanent hangdog expression surely now deserves a portrait to be hung in honour in the Prado museum - and a tired looking Gerard Pique.
They boarded a bus - no passport control for World Cup winners - and were whisked off for an audience with the King at the Royal Palace before meeting the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Such a tight schedule inevitably overran, meaning a delay to the timetable of the evening's events. But what's an hour or two extra when you've waited 80 years for a taste of World Cup glory?
Along Gran Via, nobody was complaining. Chants of "I am Spanish" and "A por ellos" (go get them) reverberated against the buildings where office workers leaned from their windows. Some threw water down to cool the crowd below them. Cars gradually disappeared as the crowd, unconfined by barriers, filled the road.
Fans made their own entertainment as they waited patiently for the team bus. Raul Sanchez Fernandez and his friends had travelled from Toledo and were proving popular with passers-by keen to have their photo taken with a replica World Cup they had made.
"I used a cereal bowl, a glass, plasticine and sellotape," Raul beamed. How did he feel about seeing the real thing in Madrid for the first time? "It's going to be incredible to see the World Cup in Madrid," he said. "It's something we didn't expect and it may not happen again. Winning the World Cup is the biggest thing that has ever happened in Spanish sport and it was the most beautiful moment in my life."
Close to him, a man dressed only in a towel and a Carles Puyol wig danced in the street (the queen of Spain had walked into the Spanish dressing room to congratulate the team after the Germany semi-final win, colliding with an embarrassed Puyol as he came out of the shower).
Shadows had lengthened across Gran Via by the time the bus arrived. Necks craned in anticipation as the sound of wailing sirens signalled the moment everyone had been waiting for.
As the team bus came into view, filing along behind a cavalcade of police vehicles, the roar from the crowd was a decibel-blasting outpouring of emotion bettered only by the cheer that greeted Andres Iniesta's winner the previous evening.
As the bus passed within four feet of the crowd, the players passed around the trophy, each eager to present it to the adoring crowd. Andres Iniesta, who comes across as a reserved and shy chap, banged the side of the bus as the crowd chanted "Campeones". Iniesta had said he would walk the route of Santiago if Spain won the World Cup. He wouldn't have to. This multitude would carry him on their shoulders.
"It's hard to put into words," Atletico Madrid fan Alberto said as he made his way towards Puente Del Rey despite a warning from the police that the area was now dangerously overcrowded. "It's amazing. This is such a special day for Spain, even better than winning the Euros two years ago. I've already seen the bus go past once but want to see them one more time."
Spain are unlikely to have to wait another 80 years to witness such a sight again.