Attract them? We can't keep our own
THE LAST piece of big news from the governmental group that had been set up specifically to draw foreign teams into Ireland prior to London 2012 was when Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey decided it was going nowhere.
Hickey left, metaphorically slamming the door, and labelled the co-ordinating group a “toothless talking shop” adding that Ireland had failed to entice national teams to these shores with proper facilities. He also insisted that the country had missed out “on a huge legacy”.
Hickey could see, if not where the committee was going, where the national teams of other competing countries were going and it wasn’t to Ireland. Following the mini-rant Government minister Ciaran Cannon stood in for Michael Ring during a Dáil session last November.
“Mr Ring’s department are working on attracting other teams to Ireland and has prepared a CD which details all the facilities available and that has been distributed to all our embassies around the world as well as federations,” said Cannon.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on sport Timmy Dooley wasn’t impressed and referred to county councils putting out CDs to promote their counties. Small change, parochial, he suggested. Dooley was also exercised about Hickey’s departing remarks in his letter of resignation.
“He (Hickey) referred to the committee as a toothless talking shop and in essence nothing had been achieved over the past two years. In my view, that’s a damning indictment. We really had high hopes when former minister John O’Donoghue, established this group . . . we have failed miserably to capitalise on that.”
Since then Ring has been giving aspirational speeches about the mountains of money Government expect to rake in from tourism. On that he sounds like O’Donoghue with his “golden opportunity” comments when London was awarded the Olympics and Ireland was sitting pretty on British coat tails. There is no talk now of the debacle of attracting virtually nothing or the abject failure to make the country even modestly attractive to other Olympic nations.
But now as the London shadow is falling on the Irish athletes, even they have been leaving Dodge in the run in to the Games.
While nearly all of the athletics team remains in Ireland with some competing in the Cork City Sports last night, 5000m runner, Alistair Cragg has remained in the USA. The entire boxing team of five males and Katie Taylor has gone to Italy to set up a pre-Olympic camp in Assisi, where they will be joined by Azerbaijan, Italy and a team from Ukraine. Billy Walsh’s Olympians will fly directly from Italy to London.
The canoeists are abroad too. Why, because Ireland does not have anything that resembles the Olympic course in London, or for that matter any Olympic course, so the athletes must continually train abroad.
Hannah Craig and Eoin Rheinisch are in London now and have been training at the Olympic site since July 16th. They are allocated two hours a day. Andrezej Jezierski could have trained in Inniscarra, Cork, where Sanita Puspure is currently doing her rowing preparation. But he has travelled to Poland for warm weather training on Lake Malta in Poznan, his original home town.
Canoeing would have been a difficult sell abroad by the governmental group. Rheinisch, who came fourth in the Beijing Olympics, explained some weeks ago in his column in this paper that he has to spend 200 days a year out of the country.