Town to welcome Olympic boxer Nevin
Officials in John Joe Nevin's hometown have insisted a red carpet celebration of his Olympic success was never in doubt.
The boxer from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who is from a traveller background, had expressed disappointment that his exploits at a consecutive Games were effectively snubbed.
Nevin had to settle for silver in the 56kg bantamweight competition against Team GB's Luke Campbell.
But the local council has prepared for several thousand well-wishers to hit the streets for one of the classiest boxers at London 2012.
Peter Burke, the outgoing mayor of Mullingar, said Nevin should be publicly praised. "To be fair to him his achievements have been amazing. He was just 19 years old in Beijing and he fought some great fighters. Now look where he is," he said.
Nevin's homecoming celebrations will include an open top bus tour led by the town band from where he grew up in the Patrick Street area of the town at 6.30pm on Monday before a reception in the Westmeath GAA grounds of Cusack Park. The county council have been in touch with those close to Nevin in Team Ireland to make preparations.
Mr Burke said that locals were now looking to Nevin as a hero alongside showband great Joe Dolan and One Direction's Niall Horan. "The unfortunate thing in Mullingar is that we have not got a boxing ring especially now when you consider that now Mullingar is better known for its boxing than its music," he said.
Any question that Nevin is likely to face a similar sort of passive discrimination that befell Olympian Francie Barrett, also from a travelling background, were knocked back. The boxer was refused entry to nightclubs in Galway on occasions, despite being hailed for representing the country.
Mr Burke added that businesses had already taken the initiative to get locals out on the streets in support of Nevin in his semi-final bout. "If one was being realistic and you were in the market square there was the big screen, the gloves on the statue of Joe Dolan, flags, bunting, the businesses all got behind it. If you were here to experience it, you'd see the goodwill. It's immeasurable," he added.
The council agreed a motion two months ago to have an address of recognition for Nevin - a special civic reception, a rare accolade as one official put it. The event will also see equestrian Olympian Joseph Murphy and Paralympians Damien Shaw and Mark Rohan celebrated. Officials said the council could not do anything sooner to mark their achievements as the budget for the last year had been spent celebrating the achievements of Gerry Duffy, a winning Ironman triathlete.