Editor's Viewpoint: Golden opportunity missed in Olympics
Published 21/01/2011 | 08:00
When London won the bid to host next year's Olympic Games there were promises that the regions, Northern Ireland included, would share not only in the glory of the event but also in any financial and sporting spin-offs.
Now it seems certain that the province will not even be on the starting line for any Olympic dividend. Only a miserly 1% of construction contracts have come to the province and we're not on the radar as a training base for international competitors.
It would be easy to point the finger at London, both the Government and the Olympic organisers, for our failure to gain any benefit from the Games. And there is no doubt there was indifference displayed towards us from across the water. But it must be said that politicians on this side of the Irish Sea have done little to present a compelling case for inclusion in the games bonanza.
Any hopes of hosting some soccer matches disappeared when the idea of a national stadium at the Maze was stonewalled into oblivion. Now we learn that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure had put the development of five state-of-the-art sports facilities way down its list of priorities, meaning that there was no incentive for elite athletes to come here, even for pre-Games training. Sporting organisations have spent good money developing a business case for their facilities, which has come to naught. As well, some £40m of lottery money was diverted from the province to the London games site with no hope of us gaining a return from it.
As far as Northern Ireland is concerned the Olympic Games could be held in a far-off part of the world. Our only likely involvement is to have the Olympic torch carried through the province for four days. If there were gold medals for failure we would be strong contenders.