Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Lord Coe helps us to see Mary Peter's legacy will be set in stone forever

Dame Mary Peters and Lord Coe get the first glimpse of the new statue

He has probably used the word 'legacy' more than anyone in sport, but Lord Seb Coe may never have meant it more than when he said it yesterday in glowing reference to Dame Mary Peters.

The chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games and legendary former middle-distance runner was one of several dignitaries present for the unveiling of a new statue of Northern Ireland's cherished 'Golden Girl' at the Mary Peters Track.

And while the sculpture itself, created by John Sherlock OBE, depicts the iconic Mary already immortalised in modern folklore, arms aloft after claiming Gold in Munich's 1972 Games, it is the golden future that she has helped generate which has gained Lord Coe's admiration.

"In many respects, Mary defines quintessentially the word legacy," said the man widely recognised as the figurehead of the 2012 Games.

"On the flight home from Munich, she was trying to figure out what she could do to capture for generations of young people in Northern Ireland what she experienced.

"For Mary, it was never enough just to bask in the glory of what she had achieved. She has always consistently tried to map out that path between individual performance and the greater good.

"I would be hard pushed to identify anybody in British sport that has understood what legacy is about, for longer than Mary has."

The collective turnout at the Mary Peters Track, both to see the unveiling of the statue and filling the new Malcolm Brodie Stand at the newly-refurbished facilities to watch night's athletics suggests the sport has a bright future here.

However, in the face of recent findings that the feel-good factor of last summer's Games may be starting to diminish in terms of uptake, Lord Coe and many of sport's leading names will know that complacency is their enemy as they continue their push to get more people involved.

He added: "There will be a challenge, and I don't think any of us ever thought that trajectory was going to be a smooth, upward slope, but overall, we're still moving very strongly in the right direction."

And while local athletes continue to strive towards their goals, they will now quite literally have an inspirational figure to look up to.

"It's such an honour to know I am going to be overseeing athletics for the rest of my life and beyond," said Dame Mary.

"I hope this will inspire new generations of young people to enjoy sport, friendship, and the travel that comes with it.

"I am delighted that Belfast has a truly world-class facility that will serve both current and future generations of young athletes for many years to come."

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