Belfast to host BBC Sports Personality of the Year
BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) is coming to Belfast, it can be revealed.
The glittering ceremony will be held at the Odyssey Arena in December.
There has been speculation for some time that the event was set to come to Northern Ireland but now the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that dignitaries have been sent invitations to a launch party this month.
The scale of the ceremony, which recognises sporting excellence, will make it one of the biggest events ever held in the city and the most ambitious project for the Odyssey since the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
It will require the construction of a custom-made stage and will also feature a dazzling lights show and a red carpet entrance.
The iconic pre-Christmas show will give a massive tourism and business boost to the city in the winter months with thousands of people expected to stay in hotels.
The show, which is broadcast live on BBC1, is hosted by Gary Lineker, Sue Barker and Gabby Logan and would include hundreds of sporting stars, from Rebecca Adlington to Wayne Rooney to Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and tennis ace Andy Murray.
Former Olympic swimmer Adlington stole the show on the red carpet at last year's event, making headlines by showing off her pregnancy bump in a tight, white mini-dress.
Former footballer and style icon David Beckham has attended in previous years and would also be invited to the Belfast party.
SPOTY left its traditional London home for the first time in 2006 and last year it was held in Glasgow.
The success of local sporting stars, in particular Rory McIlory and AP McCoy (below left), had made it inevitable that corporation bosses would eventually bring the show to Northern Ireland. There was controversy last year when red-hot favourite McIlroy (above) missed out on the main award which went instead to racing driving Lewis Hamilton.
Northern Ireland has a long association with the awards, with former past winners including Barry McGuigan, Dame Mary Peters and AP McCoy.
The ceremony also features an international award, which raises the prospect of a global sporting star coming to Belfast. Recent winners of this include Cristiano Ronaldo and Serena Williams.
This year's ceremony will give an opportunity to pay tribute to the career of soon-to-be 20-times champion jockey McCoy, who is set to retire next Saturday.
Last 10 winners
2014: Lewis Hamilton racing driver, Formula One world champion
2013: Andy Murray tennis player, won Wimbledon
2012: Bradley Wiggins cyclist, first Briton to win the Tour de France
2011: Mark Cavendish cyclist, multiple Tour de France stage winner
2010: Tony McCoy champion jockey
2009: Ryan Giggs Manchester United footballer
2008: Chris Hoy multiple Olympic cycling champion
2007: Joe Calzaghe world champion boxer
2006: Zara Philips eventing, won the award 35 years after her mother, the Princess Royal
2005: Andrew Flintoff Ashes-winning cricketer