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Plain sailing for Ciara and Irish team at Olympics

Team Ireland proudly entered the Beijing Bird Nest Stadium yesterday evening with the honour of carrying the Tricolour given to sailor Ciara Peelo.

The 28-year-old Malahide native led out the Irish athletes as the 54-strong team begin their quest for Olympic glory today.

Ireland's flag bearer (right) was overawed by her selection to carry the flag and by the ceremony itself.

"To be chosen to carry the flag, it's just an amazing feeling and it is such an honour," she said.

But Ciara is aware of the reason why she is there and is grounding herself quickly.

"I have three days to come back down and refocus on my own event, which I've worked four years for," she said.

Ciara and the team are receiving recognition from home for the work they have put in to participate in the Games.

Both President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen, neither of whom are attending the event, offered their best wishes to the team.

President McAleese noted the sacrifices the participants have made to achieve their dreams in her message.

"The years of training, sacrifice and competition, all relentlessly focused on this moment, have earned you this ticket to compete in the most prestigious sporting competition in the world," she said.

While Mr Cowen extended his wishes to the team also.

"It takes years of hard work and dedication just to participate in the Games. I want to congratulate every member of Team Ireland on their personal achievement in qualifying," he said.

But there was mixed reaction to the most-expensive opening ceremony to any sporting event in history and the Irish Minster for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen, who attended the opening, took the brunt of the criticism.

Belfast Telegraph


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