Athletics: Irish venues fight on in race to lure Olympic teams
ONE American team bound for the London 2012 Olympics has picked Ireland as their pre-Games training base.
But Irish sporting administrators are being stymied in their efforts to get others to follow suit because British cities are offering major financial incentives for nations to come and use their facilities.
America's synchronised swimming team has chosen the National Aquatic Centre (NAC) in Abbotstown as its pre-Olympics training base and will use it for three separate training camps between April and August 2012, including the period of the Games.
US synchronised swimming team director Sandra Mahoney said they had looked at alternative options in Europe but are basing themselves in Dublin because "the facility is world-class and the country is most welcoming".
But Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey confirmed yesterday that "every city in the UK and Northern Ireland is able to offer cash incentives -- from £25,000 to £50,000 -- to attract teams to use their facilities".
"It was one of the innovations built into the London (Olympic) bid," he said. "That's why we're up against it.
"The French are also subsidising teams to train there, largely in the north of France, which can be used in conjunction with the Channel Tunnel.
"But everyone here is still working very hard to promote Ireland as a pre-Games training venue, particularly campuses like Abbotstown, UCD and the University of Limerick."
The CEO of National Sports Campus Ireland (NSCI), Barry O'Brien, said yesterday that they have high hopes of other teams basing themselves at Abbotstown's 50m pool and are already certain that several individual swimmers from some smaller nations will train there.
He acknowledged that the financial incentives being offered by British cities have created stiff competition but said that Ireland's proximity to London, while yet removed from the pre-Games hype, remains its unique selling point.
Having taken over the management of Morton Stadium last summer, the NCSI is also heavily touting the Santry venue as a pre-Games base, particularly as the recently installed Mondo track is the same as that being used in London 2012.
Elsewhere, Derval O'Rourke competes in the final event of the Diamond League, the Memorial Van Damme, in Brussels today.
O'Rourke has been using the final few Diamond League races since Barcelona to prepare for the IAAF Continental Cup next month.
Her European silver medal automatically qualified her for the European team that will take on the best of Asia, America and Africa in Split on September 4-5.