Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth pictured at the border crossing where the handover of the Olympic torch took place. INPHO/Presseye/Kelvin Boyes
Olympic torch

Olympic torch makes historic visit to Dublin

The Dublin relay started at Croke Park stadium before passing some of the capital’s most famous sites.

THE OLYMPIC FLAME lit up Dublin this morning on its only visit outside Britain en route to the 2012 London Games, in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation between the two states.

President Michael D Higgins received the flame, which is making a 10-week, 8,000-mile relay ahead of the Games that start on 27 July, in Howth following a handover at the border.

The flame was transferred across the border between 1992 Olympic boxing medallists Wayne McCullough from Belfast and Michael Carruth from Dublin. London Games chief Sebastian Coe and Sports Minister Michael Ring watched with a crowd of local onlookers as McCullough lit Carruth’s torch with his own.

“This is a truly historic day for Ireland,” said Ring. “Today we bring the Olympic spirit into the heart of our capital city, in front of a global audience.”

The flame crossed the border as part of its a five-day journey around Northern Ireland as a token of closer ties between Britain and the South following Queen Elizabeth II’s landmark visit there last year.

The flame was taken around Dublin ahead of its return to Northern Ireland to visit Newry and Lisburn before finishing in Belfast.

The Dublin relay started at Croke Park stadium before passing some of the capital’s most historic sites. It was also to be greeted by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Dublin’s 40 torchbearers included former Ireland rugby winger Denis Hickie, and pop duo Jedward, who represented Ireland at last month’s Eurovision song contest. Ronnie Delany, who won the 1,500 metres gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, jockey Ruby Walsh and former Ireland international footballer Paul McGrath were also to carry the flame.

Final torchbearer Sonia O’Sullivan, who won the 5,000 metres silver at the 2000 Sydney Games, lit an Olympic cauldron in the city’s St Stephen’s Green.

London Games officials decided the torch should stay in Britain apart from the Ireland trip, following Tibet-related protests that dogged the global torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Games.

“It has taken many, many months of lobbying at the highest international levels to get the permission required to bring the relay south,” said Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland.

The Olympic torch landed in Britain on a plane from Greece on 18 May and will arrive at the Olympic Stadium in east London for the opening ceremony on 27 July.

- © AFP, 2012

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