The dream of a Northern Ireland sports museum to celebrate this country's heroic sporting achievements under one roof has suffered a massive setback.
A committee of leading figures campaigning for a permanent national sporting memorial have admitted defeat after 20 years of knock backs and are winding up their Ulster Sports Museum charity.
Presided over by 1972 Olympic pentathlon gold medallist, Lady Mary Peters, and chaired by former Ireland and Lions rugby international Nigel Carr, both feel the museum would have paid for itself, as a tourist attraction and an inspiration to future generations.
But, in announcing the dissolution today, they explain how, despite many pledges and promises of support, and offers of historic sporting exhibits, their efforts floundered due to a lack of real commitment to financial support from government.
Lady Mary said: "It is a source of great regret that we are losing the legacy of many hundreds of inspirational people who served their country well through their sporting excellence and achievements.
"Northern Ireland needs a place to commemorate and tell the stories of those who brought credit to their country when everyone was despairing. For such a small country, we stand tall on the world sporting stage, thanks to people like George Best, Jack Kyle, Willie John McBride, Pat Jennings, Harry Gregg, Joey Dunlop and many more who are household names around the globe.
"But we have nothing to commemorate them here at home.
"Down the years, we have had a lot of enthusiasm for the project but, crucially, no money and no building."
Lady Mary's Munich Olympic gold medal is currently on loan display at the Ulster Museum.
"I would dearly love my medal to be on permanent display in a sports museum here. After all, I won it for Northern Ireland," Lady Mary added.
The harsh reality, and major stumbling block for the project, is money and sustainability through a guaranteed long term funding stream.
Nigel Carr admitted: "Everyone we have spoken to, government, councils, business and potential individual benefactors have bought into the idea.
"The problem is not so much getting a museum up and running but keeping it going.
"There are building and staff costs and, what many people do not realise, the huge financial implication of insuring the many invaluable and irreplaceable pieces of memorabilia we have been offered.
"Realistically, only government could provide that commitment.
"We still believe a sports museum would be viable and worthy of government support in terms of attracting tourism and the benefits from inspiring future generations to strive for sporting excellence.
"But despite many meetings and expressions of interest, there has not been any tangible progress so, with regret, we have taken the decision to wind down, while remaining as convinced as ever of the value of a sports museum and the benefits to the community."
Revealing that over 70 leading sporting figures had agreed to become patrons of the museum, Nigel added: "We saw the potential some years ago when we created a travelling exhibition to illustrate what might be achievable in a permanent sports museum.
"This exhibition visited 30 locations, starting in Belfast City Hall and finishing at Stormont; the total number of visitors exceeded 120,000 and the overwhelming response from visitors was very positive.
"There was an extensive search for a suitable location and appropriate partners for a permanent museum.
"We looked at over 30 possibilities and considerable work was undertaken in this search, including advice from leading museum consultants and financial advisers. However, while we remain convinced on the merits of celebrating achievement, there has been very limited progress in recent times.
"The past year has undeniably been a difficult year for everyone and we have not been alone in treading water, particularly at a time that many hoteliers, airlines and much of the high street faces ruin.
"However, the high hopes offered by the support of our National Museums and Galleries, the assurance of a senior Departmental official that a sports museum was 'not if, but when' and Belfast's City Deal's inclusion of 'the role of sport and sporting heroes' in their Destination Hub proposals have all yet to result in anything meaningful.
"If anyone else now wishes to pick up the baton, we will be only too happy to advise and assist. But, for now, we are leaving the arena."