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We're doing more than sending out CDs ahead of London 2012, says minister

Despite OCI chief Pat Hickey’s resignation from group charged with taking advantage of Olympics opportunities, the government say preparations are going well.

London's Olympic Stadium which will be the focal point of the action next summer.
London's Olympic Stadium which will be the focal point of the action next summer.
Image: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images

AS IRELAND’S ATHLETES continue their preparations for next summer’s Olympics in London, the government say their build-up is also going well.

Yesterday in the Dáil, they defended its efforts to make the most of the opportunity that is London 2012.

The English capital hosts the Summer Games, which begin in August next year.

The Department of Sport have been charged with trying to attract competing teams to these shores before the event as well as tourists next summer.

Olympic Council of Ireland chief Pat Hickey last week resigned from a task force designed to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the Games’ proximity.

Hickey labelled the coordinating group a ‘toothless talking shop’ and said that Ireland had faield to entice national teams to these shores with proper facilities. He also insisted that the country had missed out ‘on a huge legacy’.

Yesterday in the Dáil however, government TD Ciaran Cannon – standing in for Minister for Sport, Michael Ring – insisted the department’s efforts didn’t just add up to ‘sending out a few CDs’.

“Mr Ring believes the group has been most effective in its brief to identify opportunities that can benefit throughout the Games,” the minster for state said, “I understand Irish companies have so far won contracts worth €300m relating to the Games.

“The tourism industry is working closely with a range of partners at home and overseas and Tourism Ireland is working with official agencies and official sponsors.

“A number of familiarisation visits have taken place and further  more are planned to bring this very lucratic business to Ireland.

“Mr Ring’s department are working on attracting other teams to Ireland and has prepared a CD which details all the facilities available and that has been distributed to all our embassies around the world as well as federations,” he added.

The statement came in response to a question from Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Timmy Dooley. He asked what efforts were being made to maximise next summer’s opportunity in the wake of Hickey’s decision, but was not impressed by the sport minister’s absence or the reference to CDs by his stand-in.

“What we want from this government is an action plan. A county council would put together CDs on an ongoing basis to promote their county. For the state to suggest that somehow they’re going to reap the rewards that are out there based on circulation of CDs is an appalling explanation in this regard.

“And I’m very disappointed that your explanation culminated in people sending out CDs. What we need is people selling this country. What we need  is the minister picking up the phone to his counterpart in the countries that will come to the Olympics and getting involved in the hard sell on behalf of the island of Ireland,” he added.

Resignation

Dooley’s question was prompted by Pat Hickey’s resignation in recent days, he said.

“I’m very concerned by some of the comments made by Mr Hickey’s letter of resignation to Minister Ring, in which he said he was disillusioned with the lack of progress being made by the group.

“He referred to the committee as a toothless talking shop and in essence nothing had been achieved over the past two years. In my view, that’s a damning indictment. We really had high hopes when former minister John O’Donoghue, established this group. Here was a startling opportunity for this country, recognising our neighbours’ proximity as hosts, and we have failed miserably to capitalise on that.”

Deputy Cannon added that the government were doing much more than sending out CDs.

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