Tuesday 24 October 2017

Brave Olympic athletes heap shame on bureaucrats

Graham Clifford

Thank God for the likes of Kieran Behan. Having spent time with the 22-year-old London Irish gymnast and watched him sensationally secure a place at this sum-mer's Olympic Games on Tu- esday night at the O2 arena, I regard him as a shining example of what the spirit of the games should be.

Here's a young man -- who was told twice he may never walk again -- defying all the odds and flying the flag for our country with pride and dignity. What's more, he receives minimal sponsorship.

The Federation of International Gymnastics has confirmed his qualification, making Mr Behan the first-ever Irish gymnast to qualify for an Olympic Games.

In contrast, RTE's 'Prime Time' programme exposed, on the same night that Mr Behan made history, how Ireland has failed to capitalise on the world's biggest sporting occasion coming to our neighbour.

Not one full international team will base itself in Ireland in the run-up to the games, and, before Christmas, Pat Hickey, the country's Olympic chief, resigned from a government task force established to maximise opportunities the games may present, describing it as a "talking shop".

And it's still unclear if Ireland will host a hospitality house in London during the games with Mr Hickey confirming both Guinness and Tourism Ireland turned down requests to be "title sponsors".

So here we are, just months before the biggest show on earth with the focus being shone on missed opportunities and squabbles.

The likes of Mr Behan and European cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton should be leading examples to all those involved in the Irish Olympic campaign of what can be achieved with a shared focus.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News