Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Province safe and open for business

The expected dividend from the London Olympics of 2012 is much smaller and much slower at arriving in Northern Ireland than expected.

Earlier this year it was revealed that local firms had obtained contracts worth £17m from infrastructure projects while English firms had benefited to the tune of £5bn, or 98% of the value of the total contracts. Now, it appears that few countries are going to use the province as a pre-Olympics training base.

Sport NI chief executive, Eamonn McCartan, has scored something of an own goal by saying that the province's troubled image, and the threat from dissident terrorists, is deterring athletes coming here in advance of the London games. While there is an undeniable terrorist threat, it is of a sporadic nature and the vast majority of people go about their daily lives in exactly the same manner as anyone else in the UK. Indeed, it could be argued that London is more likely to be targeted by terrorists than Belfast or anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

Mr McCartan should know that his comments could easily become self-fulfilling prophesies, heightening fears where none existed in the first place and making competitors question the wisdom of coming here for pre-games training. Propaganda is the strongest weapon that the dissidents have and they will welcome any suggestion that they pose a threat to normal life.

Instead of worrying about the dissidents, we should be concentrating on how to attract athletes. We should be assuring them that the province is safe and that we have the facilities for international sportsmen and women to complete their preparations. We should also be pointing out that the British transplant games and the World Police and Fire games are coming here, bringing thousands of competitors and spectators from around the world.

It is time to show Northern Ireland in a winning light and to highlight that we have left the dark days behind.

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