Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Australia's boxers only team to lay glove on us

Northern Ireland has secured its first Olympic team - although it still trails behind the Republic.

The Australian boxing team have chosen the province as their base for pre-Games training.

But four teams - the Hungarian and British water polo teams, US synchronised swimming team and the UK Paralympic swimmers - have already committed to training in the Republic.

Many have criticised the length of time it's taken to secure a pre-training team here, with our poor facilities being blamed.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said some Third World countries have better sporting facilities than Northern Ireland.

He said: "For many years there was a lack of investment in sporting facilities in Northern Ireland. It's unfortunate that in some ways that still prevails. I have been in some countries in the world, which would be regarded as Third World, and at times I found some of the sporting facilities they have are better than what we have.

"Maybe there are lessons to be learned here that if we want to up our game in sporting terms we need facilities to meet that aspiration," he said.

"In many ways the Republic has invested more in sporting facilities. It was part of the legacy of the Troubles, but hopefully the Olympics will be the catalyst we need."

Former Sports Minister Gregory Campbell said: "The Republic was always going to be on an even playing field to us because of the close proximity to London. It would be preferable if we had more teams signed up, but we have to be positive."

Stormont Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin (left) welcomed the news, saying it came "hot on the heels" of securing the World boccia Championships - a pre-qualifying event for the 2012 Paralympics - which take place this week, as well as the International Badminton Championships, which take place in December.

Quotes

Sport NI chair Dominic Walsh said the Australians' letter of intent to train here was "fantastic news for the sport of boxing, to inspire our young athletes, and for Northern Ireland as a whole".

He added: "As with all pre-games training camps, this announcement is subject to detailed terms being agreed, however our progress in this area is encouraging."

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