Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

A return to the old days of the Mary Peters track drawing in the stars

Dame Mary Peters

Jason Smyth would love to see a return to the old days when the top athletics stars in the world competed in glamour meetings at the Mary Peters track.

Once upon a time visits to Belfast from the likes of Linford Christie, Ed Moses, John Walker, Steve Ovett, Zola Budd and Tessa Sanderson were common place.

To attract their modern day contemporaries, Smyth rightly points out that organisers would have to break the bank

But at least now, with the venue named after the Golden Girl of the 1972 Olympics modernised and refurbished thanks to a £3 million investment, the topic has become a matter of debate. Smyth himself is scheduled to run the 100m on Tuesday at an international meeting at the new Mary Peters track with Lord Coe in town to to officially open the facility.

The Paralympic sprint king said: "I know the organisers are bringing in some top athletes and putting effort into making it a special occasion.

"Hopefully a good crowd will come out, watch and enjoy the meeting.

"It would be great if they could do things like this more regularly here. Years ago at the Mary Peters track you used to have some really big names at meetings.

"I guess there is a possibility that something like that could happen again, though of course that would be down to whoever is organising the meeting.

"The unfortunate thing today about bringing in the really big names in our sport is that you must have big backing in terms of finances to attract these top stars.

"That would be the most difficult factor to try and do what used to happen at the track many years ago.

"One plus point in the favour of anyone trying to organise a major event is that the track is named after Mary Peters, who obviously has a great name and reputation in athletics for what she achieved in the past.

"Having Mary on board obviously creates interest and of course she would have more push than most in trying to get things moving.

"On Tuesday it will be good to have Lord Coe over to officially the open the new stadium. You don't get many bigger names in sport than him.

"And obviously from a personal perspective I'd love to win my race."

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