Belfast Telegraph

Olympic relay may visit the Republic of Ireland

Top-level talks are taking place about bringing the Olympic torch from Northern Ireland across the border into the Irish Republic as part of the celebrations ahead of the Games in London next year.

Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he spoke with Home Secretary Theresa May about the possibility on the fringe of a recent meeting in Luxembourg.

“At this moment I'll simply say it's a realistic possibility and a matter that is under discussion,” he said.

It is understood the plans are to bring the iconic torch south of the border during its tour of Northern Ireland ahead of the 2012 Games. Discussions involve both the British and Irish governments as well as the British Olympic Association and sporting authorities in Ireland.

“It would be a major event in Ireland to have the Olympic torch in our country as a prelude to the Olympic Games taking place on a neighbouring island,” said Mr Shatter. “It would be yet again another sign of the extent to which we could work together, not only on issues of security, but on an occasion of sporting celebration.”

Mr Shatter said Irish people wanted to take part in the celebrations and the event.

The torch is lit in Olympia, Greece, in a traditional ceremony, before being taken on a short relay in Greece, arriving in the UK on May 18, 2012.

On a 70-day journey across the UK, the flame will be carried by thousands of torchbearers, as it makes its way to London and the opening ceremony of the Games on July 27.

The torch will come within a one-hour journey for 95% of the population of the UK.

Entertainment, shows and concerts will mark its arrival at each stop.

The Olympic Flame relay is at this stage the only Olympic event directly involving Northern Ireland.

Despite millions of pounds of investment, no international teams have chosen to train here and just 1% of construction contracts for Olympic facilities have gone to local firms.

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