Monday 18 December 2017

Fears Olympians might stage 'IRA demo' at Games

Ed Carty and Chris Parkin

A TOP Olympian feared that Irish athletes competing in the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games would stage an IRA-inspired demonstration.

Ken Ryan, chef de mission of the Ireland team, told diplomats he was also worried that competitors would go on a drinking binge in the Russian capital due to stress.

Fifty-nine countries stayed away from the games that year after the US demanded a boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Taoiseach Charles Haughey was slow to declare the official Irish position but ultimately backed the White House amid fears of damage to trade links. State papers reveal that Mr Haughey's Government felt that sanctioning Irish participation would not help world peace.

However, the Irish Olympic Committee defied him and sent one of its strongest-ever teams, with 48 athletes and medal hopes in boxing, cycling and on the track.

Mr Ryan, who marched alone at the opening ceremony without the Tricolour but carrying a white flag with the five-ring Olympic symbol, made his fears known in a meeting with an Irish ambassador. He said he was worried about "the possibility of athletes organising an IRA-inspired demonstration in the Olympic village".

He also said there were concerns that athletes would release tension after their events by going on a binge.

The Irish team had a number of realistic medal prospects, including Eamonn Coghlan, John Treacy, Barry McGuigan and Stephen Roche.

They disappointed, but the team secured two silver medals -- sailors David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson in the Flying Dutchman class.

Mr Ryan said the committee supported the Government's stance and was going to Moscow "purely from the sporting point of view".

There was controversy in rugby when Irish Army captain Ciaran Fitzgerald was told he could not take special leave to go to South Africa with the Lions. The Department of Foreign Affairs said the decision had been taken "in view of the Government's condemnation of the apartheid policies of South Africa".

At home, Galway ended a lengthy barren spell without success when they beat Limerick 2-15 to 3-9 in the All-Ireland hurling final. Roscommon lost 1-9 to 1-6 against Kerry in a disappointing football final.

Irish Independent

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