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Olympic legacy: lessons must be learned

Northern Ireland needs to learn lessons from the Olympic dream that has become something of a nightmare for several sports here, according to our latest Sports Minister.

When it was announced that London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, there was much excitement in the province with promises that a wonderful legacy would be left to Northern Ireland sport on the back of gold medals being handed out in England’s capital city.

That legacy hasn’t exactly materialised with big plans shelved due to finance.

A tennis centre in Hillsborough, cycling velodrome in Downpatrick, sailing facility in Ballyholme, athletics centre in Antrim and basketball centre in Lisburn were all knocked back because, according to the previous Sports Minister, Nelson McCausland, the business cases just didn’t stack up.

McCausland came in for some stinging criticism for the way the issue was handled, but in a voice of support for her predecessor, Caral Ni Chuilin says that where public money is concerned nothing should be left to chance.

She said: “We need to learn lessons. If business cases aren’t stacking up we need to find out why.

“You can’t invest money when business cases don’t stack up, so I wouldn’t ask or expect that of any Minister.”

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Asked if she was defending DUP man McCausland, the Sinn Fein politician replied: “I’m defending the fact he is accountable for public money and if he isn’t confident that a business case isn’t stacking up, he can’t spend public money.

“I know the sporting disciplines were very disappointed but in terms of being accountable for public funds that is something you can’t have grey areas on.”

On another thorny subject of teams coming here for pre-Games training, the Minister stated that she was very confident that Sport NI would “pull the stops out to attract teams.”

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