Ulster to host paralympic event
A qualifying event for the 2012 Paralympic Games will be held in Northern Ireland, Stormont's Sports Minister has announced.
The Boccia World Cup will take place at the University of Ulster's campus in Jordanstown, Nelson McCausland said.
Boccia is a target ball sport belonging to the same family as bowls and is a Paralympic sport for athletes with severe disabilities affecting motor skills.
The university beat off rival bids from countries such as the USA to host the event this August.
Mr McCausland said the announcement would be the first of many his department is expecting to make that will show Northern Ireland is playing a significant role in London 2012.
"Through this competition, from August 18-27 this year, over 500 competitors and coaches, from over 30 countries will be in Northern Ireland to compete for qualifying positions in the 2012 Paralympic Games," he said as he was joined by Boccia athletes in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings.
"My Department, through Sport Northern Ireland, has been working with governing bodies of sport and local Councils for some time, targeting teams and athletes to visit Northern Ireland for events and training in the run-up to 2012. Many of those discussions are now bearing fruit, such as the Boccia World Cup.
"This summer we hope to announce a sailing event for Olympic teams and a further programme of Paralympic events. We are in discussions with several Olympic and Paralympic teams with an outlook to train here in Northern Ireland next year as part of their preparation for 2012, and details of these will be announced once necessary paperwork is completed."
The minister added: "Being selected to host an international event, is a team sport in itself as demonstrated by the successful partnership approach of University of Ulster and GB Boccia, supported by Sport Northern Ireland and UK Sport. In fact, the University were chosen by GB Boccia as the preferred venue, above many Universities which were situated closer to London, including Surrey.
"The Boccia World Cup has previously been held in Vancouver and Lisbon and this year, it's coming to Northern Ireland."