Olympic athletes to get public reception after last-ditch talks
A HOMECOMING for Ireland’s Olympic team will be held on Wednesday after last-ditch negotiations.
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), Dublin City Council and the athletes were involved in talks until late last night to salvage something from what had become a public relations debacle despite Ireland’s best Olympics since 1956.
The public event will take place outside the Mansion House in Dublin at lunchtime on Wednesday but it was unclear last night if there would be an open-top bus parade as well.
Originally, the athletes declined to participate in an open-top bus parade which was scheduled for today, stating that they wanted to return to their families as soon as possible.
As well as drawing public criticism, the botched attempt to organise a homecoming event has caused a rift between Peter Taylor, the father of Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Katie Taylor, and the OCI.
Mr Taylor took exception to comments published in a Sunday newspaper and attributed to an OCI spokesman which suggested that the Dublin homecoming did not take place because of his objections.
Mr Taylor told The Irish Times last night: “I don’t know why my name is being dragged into this.
“It is without substance and those few stupid words in the paper have taken the gloss off everything Katie has achieved.”
An OCI spokesman said yesterday: “We have already said several times that the original decision was taken by Team Ireland and no individual was meant to be named. There was no fingerpointing at anyone.”
He said OCI officials spoke to Mr Taylor yesterday. “We’re trying to move forward and Peter Taylor is a very important part of the team. We’ve spoken to Peter.
“We know he’s upset. We’ve moved on and now we’re looking forward to the celebration.”
He said the issue of an apology to Mr Taylor “doesn’t arise”.
Irish chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan told RTÉ earlier yesterday that the athletes were not against a homecoming parade but the timing was wrong and nobody had consulted them about it.
Bitter disappointment was expressed publicly that a homecoming could not be organised although Dublin City Council and the OCI had been liaising about one since August 2nd.
Former world champion boxer Bernard Dunne described it as “an absolute shambles”, while Fianna Fáil spokesman on sport Timmy Dooley said the event, which was due to take place in Dublin city centre, would have happened had it been “controlled and professionally planned”.
Junior Minister for Sport Michael Ring said members of the public were very disappointed that there would not be a public reception for the team as Ireland’s Olympians, who won five medals, had given the whole country a lift.
The OCI spokesman said last night that the details had to be worked out, but the athletes were fully behind it.
“The athletes were always keen, but the timing proposed wasn’t right. They’ll get a chance to see their families and come back for it.
“They really want to acknowledge the support given by the Irish public.”
The Olympic team will arrive back into Dublin Airport at 1.25pm today for a private reception. It will be followed by a press conference.
The Dublin Airport Authority warned fans not to turn up to the airport today as they will not get access to the athletes.