Olympic torch on way after success of royal visit
Published 24/05/2011 | 05:00
BOTH sides of the border are set to host the Olympic torch next summer.
The success of the visit by Queen Elizabeth last week has all but sealed the deal, the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) confirmed yesterday.
And two of Ireland's most famous boxers -- Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough -- will play leading roles during its symbolic cross-border trip into the Republic.
"The queen's visit went so well security-wise that it was the icing on the cake and I don't see of any impediment at this stage," OCI president Pat Hickey said yesterday.
He stressed that the decision to bring the torch south of the border still needed to be formally taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at a meeting in South Africa on July 6.
"But I'm told more or less that it will be rubber-stamped," Mr Hickey said.
"The London organising committee have approved it, as have the British security services, who have interacted already with the gardai and the PSNI."
After problems in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, the IOC made a rule that it must remain in the jurisdiction of the country running the Games, which is Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
But the Olympic Council of Ireland has argued that it should also cross the border because they are the Olympic committee for the whole island of Ireland, and 25pc of their athletes and officials come from Northern Ireland.
It has already been agreed that the torch will arrive in Northern Ireland on June 3 next year, taking in Portrush, Derry, Newry and Belfast and it looks likely that it will come to Dublin on June 5.
The London Olympic organisers have a special technical group dedicated solely to the torch run, and it will visit Ireland next month.
Mr Hickey will suggest a symbolic exchange of the torch across the border, which would involve running it from Newry to Dundalk, with the handover involving two famous Irish boxers.
"I think we should do something like Wayne McCullough, a silver medallist in 1992, running it across the border to Michael Carruth, the gold medallist from 1992," Mr Hickey said.