Lord Sebastian Coe nailed his colours to the mast yesterday — Paddy Barnes for gold at London 2012.
The double Olympic gold medallist and driving force behind securing the Olympic Games paid a flying visit to the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland, meeting up with among others European senior light-flyweight champion Barnes, while also promoting the release of tickets later this month.
Coe was playing a straight bat to those questions which related to the absence of a physical legacy for Northern Ireland in terms of world class facilities but nevertheless argued that the athletes will leave a lasting, inspirational legacy.
One of those athletes is Barnes, who many believe can go all the way to gold in London, having won bronze in Beijing.
Coe said: “I believe legacy comes in any number of guises and not just facilities — the quality of the people working in the sport and the inspiration those athletes that come back with medals will have.
“I know the impact Paddy has had on the boxing community in Northern Ireland. I was here four weeks before he went off to Chicago for the World Championships in 2007 where he qualified for Beijing.
“I watched him fight in Beijing and I saw him box in Melbourne at the Commonwealth Games.
“He’s a great character and I’d love nothing more than to see Paddy win the gold in London and I think he can.
“I’m a big fan of boxing and although I’m going to be very, very busy during the Games I’d like to get along to the boxing.”
Coe believes the inspiration from the Games has already started in Northern Ireland and he expects it to continue.
“When we went to Singapore, Tony Byrne told me that if we won the Games he would build a new Salto Gymnastics centre and two years later I was there to open a very modern centre,” Coe added. “A generation of athletes which included me were inspired by Mary Peters. The inspiration from watching the Olympics is seismic.
“The impact is far broader than sport. I’ve always believed that if you expose sport to young people it can have an extraordinary impact. You can change the direction of their lives.
“I talked recently to a woman who was a young student wondering what to do when she left university and was taken to Barcelona on a family holiday and shown around the Olympic park.
“She looked at the regeneration, the quality of the housing provision off the back of the village in Barcelona and is now one of the best architects around.” Coe is hoping for momentous encounters in every discipline at the Olympics.
“I’m naturally attracted to track and field and I would look forward to seeing Usain Bolt being pressed by Tyson Gay who has raised his game and closed the gap,” added Coe. “And maybe one that wouldn’t be obvious to think about would be a Great Britain team facing Australia in a hockey final towards the end of the Games. That would be like USA against Canada in ice hockey.”
Meanwhile, it is understood that The British Olympic Association does not have enough money to fund the GB team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“We've still got a gap to close,” BOA chief Andy Hunt said. “I'm absolutely certain we will have a full team at the Games and the money will not affect that.
“The level to which we can support the team is where the challenge comes.”
The full competition schedule for the London 2012 Olympic Games is now available, including all ticket prices and ticket limits. Applications will be open from Tuesday 15 March to 11.59pm on Tuesday 26 April 2011. Whether you apply on the first day or the last, your chances of a ticket are neither enhanced or diminished.
Paralympic Games ticket applications will open on Friday 9 September 2011. Further information will be released later in the year.
Now is the time to start planning your Games!