Work begins on £3m Mary Peters track upgrade
A golden era at the Mary Peters Track has ended with a silver lining.
A routine club meeting, staged by Lagan Valley AC, brought the curtain down on the south Belfast venue as we know it.
Today, exactly 36 years on from the Track's official opening on Monday, April 16, 1976, work begins to bring the natural ampitheatre up to present-day international standards and world class athletics back to Belfast.
Over £3million is being spent by Belfast City Council to upgrade the Peters track from six lanes to eight, complete with new spectator stand and floodlights.
Great Dame Mary Peters was there to see the last race run on the present outdated version of the famous old track that represents a lasting legacy from her 1972 Munich Olympic gold medal in the Pentathlon.
Her dream now, as then, is to see future generations of young athletes use the new facilities as an introduction to the sport and possible launching pad to higher levels of achievement.
The sporting public, meanwhile, can again look forward to a re-run of the heady nights of the 80's when thousands flocked to the Peters Track the to be thrilled close-up by the biggest names of the day, including Coe and Ovett, John Walker, Ed Moses, Linford Christie, Geoff Capes, Fatima Whitbread, Tessa Saunderson, Kathy Cook, Shirley Strong and, most famously, Zola Budd ahead of her ill-fated 1984 Los Angeles Olympic clash with Mary Decker.
With the starting gun sounding today, work should be complete early next year, fittingly in time to host the track and field competition in the World Police and Fire Games bringing over 10,000 competitors to Belfast in 2013 and of which Dame Mary is Patron.
“This is something I have been very keen to see for some time, the international criteria having moved up to from six lanes to eight in the intervening years since the track first opened in 1976,” said DameMary.
“Although I am now in my 70's and only run for the bus, I wanted the next generation to have something better and Belfast City Council are helping us provide the perfect legacy.
“The big names are wonderful to see but as patron of Athletics NI and my own Mary Peters Trust, I love to see our own young athletes making progress.”