THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC) signed off today on plans to bring the Olympic Torch on a flying visit to Dublin next summer.
The flame will come to Ireland on 6 June, making a brief detour during its four-day trip around the North. It will then continue its journey around the UK before the Games’ official opening ceremony on 27 July.
A formal announcement was made by the IOC at lunchtime.
A spokesperson for the Olympic Committee of Ireland confirmed to TheScore.ie that the torch would visit Ireland “for a few hours ” on 6 June but said that the details of the proposed route and celebrations would not be decided until closer to the time.
This morning’s news was welcomed by OCI President Pat Hickey who has been lobbying to ensure Ireland’s inclusion in the torch relay for the past four years.
Under IOC rules, the torch relay is not allowed to travel outside of the host nation in the build-up to the Games. However, a formal derogation was granted to recognise the fact that the Irish Olympic team represents all 32 counties rather than just the 26 counties of the Republic.
“It is the culmination of a dream,” Hickey said this morning. “This is the nearest thing which Ireland will ever have to hosting the Olympics themselves.”
The IOC’s decision was also greeted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said that Ireland will now be “centre-stage in the immediate run-in to the games.”
“This brings even closer to home the spirit of the Olympic games which is being hosted by our near neighbours in London next year,” Kenny said.
I would like to thank Pat Hickey and the Olympic Council of Ireland for their efforts in ensuring the Olympic torch visited these shores. I met with members of the London 2012 Organising Committee earlier this year and I’m delighted that they have decided to include Ireland in their torch ceremony.
Kenny’s sentiments were echoed by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring who also highlighted the global media exposure which the torch will bring to Ireland.
“I am delighted that the Olympic Flame will travel across the border into the Republic next year in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. This historic occasion recognises the friendship, peace and cooperation that now exists on the island of Ireland and demonstrates the unifying power of sport.
A number of international teams have already chosen Dublin as a training base before the London Games. The visit of the Olympic Flame next year will be a wonderful opportunity for the whole of Ireland to be even more closely involved with the 2012 London Olympic Games and for Irish people to be part of the biggest sporting event in the world.
“This is also tremendous news from a tourism perspective. This year we had the highly successful visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama, and today’s announcement means that we will again have an opportunity for significant international media focus on Ireland next summer.
“I know the tourism agencies will be doing everything they can to maximise the benefits of the torch being in Dublin. It should be particularly useful in terms of generating further positive publicity in Great Britain – our most important overseas tourism market.”
In September, TheJournal.ie learned of preliminary plans for the torch’s route in Dublin which included a border crossing in Newry to celebrate 14 years of peace as well as stops at OCI Headquarters in Howth, Croke Park, the Garden of Remembrance and Govenrment Buildings.
It is not yet clear how these plans will be affected by the short duration of the torch’s stay in Ireland, though a large public celebration in Dublin city centre is likely to take place.
Approximately 50 Irish torchbearers will take part in the relay including under-25, individuals with disabilities to symbolise the link with the 2012 Paralympics, and representatives of Ireland’s diverse communities.
– Additional reporting by Michael Freeman.