Belfast Telegraph

BBC's sport awards go to Belfast

Belfast is to host the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year before Christmas.

The event will take place at the Odyssey Arena on Sunday December 20 - its first time in Northern Ireland - and will be attended by hundreds of sporting stars.

Highlights this year include the Rugby World Cup, World Athletics Championships and an Ashes on UK soil. Past winners of the accolade include Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and cycling's Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland said: "It is a massive reflection on how far we have come and how well we are represented around the world."

He said golf's Rory McIlroy, a multi-major winner, and champion jockey AP McCoy had been great ambassadors for the country.

"I have grown up through all of the Troubles.

"Northern Ireland has been promoted as the Troubles, all the years that is what people first and foremost have thought about it, the past.

"With the event coming here, people's perceptions will change - they will realise we have a lot here, that is why I live here, this is home.

"In all these years with the dark times, if you had asked yourself years ago would this happen in Belfast, the answer would be no."

The show is in its 62nd year. Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan and Clare Balding will present the broadcast to millions of viewers.

Dame Mary Peters, who won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics in the pentathlon and was voted Sports Personality of the Year, said it would encourage other young people to take up sport.

"We bat above the average in success in sport. I don't think there is any other county, maybe London, who have more than three recipients (of Sports Personality of the Year) and we have got two runners-up.

"We deserve it, we are part of the UK, we are part of the BBC network, it is right it should come.

"We have got the venues with the Odyssey. We could have a winner this year, which would be the icing on the cake."

Barry McGuigan, a former world featherweight champion at boxing, said: "This is really something special."

McIlroy, runner-up in last year's vote, said Belfast had shown it could host major events and has become a vibrant city.

Peter Johnston, director of the BBC in Northern Ireland, said: "This truly is a stellar event, this is one of the biggest events the BBC does.

"To have it here is fantastic. What a Christmas present for the city."

Stormont enterprise minister Arlene Foster said it would raise the country's profile.

"Northern Ireland is building a global reputation as the home of great events, which makes it only fitting that the BBC should bring its Sports Personality of the Year awards to Belfast."


From Belfast Telegraph