Belfast Telegraph

Belfast to host BBC sport awards but will we have a home winner?

By Amanda Ferguson

It's official. BBC Sports Personality of the Year is on its way to Belfast and Gary Lineker says he can't wait to get here.

BBC Northern Ireland officially announced yesterday the Odyssey Arena as the venue for the 62nd annual televised event, watched by millions, which goes to the sportsperson, judged by a public vote, to have achieved the most that year.

Earlier this month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the ceremony was coming to Northern Ireland for the first time and on December 20, hundreds of sportsmen and women will descend on the city to find out who has been deemed the best of the best.

Co Down golfer Rory McIlroy was tipped to win last year after he secured two Majors in 2014 but was beaten to the top spot by Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Rory said: "I think Belfast has shown over the past few years that it can hold massive events like the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. We have the facilities at the Odyssey Arena which hosted the MTV music awards.

"I think it will be huge. Belfast has been crying out for events like this, and in the years since the Millennium, Belfast has grown into a really vibrant city."

A series of build-up events will be organised by the BBC and details of how the public can get their hands on the 8,000 tickets up for grabs will be revealed soon. TV presenter and former footballer Gary Lineker told his 3.8m Twitter followers he was looking forward to presenting the show.

"BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be in Belfast this year," he wrote.

"Great city. Look forward to being there in December."

Lineker hosts the show with Clare Balding and Gabby Logan.

Meanwhile, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland is building a global reputation "as the home of great events", and said it was only fitting the BBC should bring its Sports Personality of the Year Award to Belfast.

"The hugely-anticipated event will once again raise the profile of Northern Ireland to an audience of millions, as well as providing a significant boost to the local economy," she added.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson, said securing the ceremony, which will be supported by the council and Tourism NI to maximise its impact, was "a great coup for our city and further enhances our reputation as a great venue for high quality, high profile events".

"Belfast, as it always does, will roll out the welcome mat - and we look forward to the positive outcomes this will undoubtedly bring." he added.

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, explained the team had wanted to bring the ceremony to Belfast for a long time.

"The city, and Northern Ireland as whole, is home to so many sporting legends and steeped in sporting history, not to mention its worldwide reputation for a welcome second to none," she said.

"We're looking forward to a truly spectacular show."

Two-time SPOTY runner-up, golfer Darren Clarke

If you asked yourselves years ago 'Can you see this coming to Belfast?' probably the answer would have been no. But now to see it actually happening at home, in Northern Ireland, is an unbelievable achievement. I think probably deservedly so with our sportsmen, the likes of Rory (McIlroy), what he is doing, the best golfer in the world, AP McCoy, Barry (McGuigan) and Dame Mary. It a massive reflection on how far we have come."

1972 SPOTY winner, pentathlete Dame Mary Peters

The first time it went out of London I said, 'it has got to come from Belfast'. We deserve it. We bat above the average in success in sport. We are part of the United Kingdom. We are part of the BBC networking so it is right that it should come. We have got the venues now and it's a quick trip across for the party. We could have a winner this year, which would be the icing on the cake."

1985 SPOTY winner, Boxer Barry McGuigan

The general public can get the chance to be beside all these superheroes. It is a great event and it is the thing everybody wants to win. To say I was BBC Sports Personality of the Year is pretty special. It's interesting it's taking place in the Odyssey. Fans don't get big events over here so this is something really special."

Belfast Telegraph

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