Fitness expert Paul Olima says ‘Dublin has come on leaps and bounds from what I remember’

Amy Donohoe

Fitness expert Paul Olima believes Dublin has come on “leaps and bounds” from what he remembers growing up in Blanchardstown.

The 36-year-old’s parents moved to Dublin in 1974 and he said the capital is now much more multi-cultural compared with his childhood.

“Dublin has come on leaps and bounds from what I remember. When I walked down a new street, everyone looked at me, they never saw a black person before in real life, only on TV,” he said of Dublin in the 1990s.

“I was always a target, I always had to make sure that I was ready to fight, and I never really travelled alone. I always made sure I had a few of the boys with me.

“I was born in Dublin 15, the 39 bus was my route. I think the first time I saw someone else black in Blanch was when I was 15 and I couldn’t believe it.

“When I grew up in Blanch, it was just myself. Now when I’m coming home, there’s black people on the plane, I get off and the taxi driver is black.

“People don’t know what it was like back then. Stuff will always happen when people aren’t educated, but compared to back in the day, I think people are having the time of their lives.

“I have two beautiful kids. The girls go into a classroom and they see girls that look like them, they see Chinese kids, Arab kids, it’s more multi-cultural.

“It’s never you and us with them, it’s wonderful for my kids, it’s great,” he added.

Paul has worked as a personal trainer for Maura Higgins on her TV show You’re Joking Me, and has appeared alongside Jordan North on the adrenalin-fuelled reality series Go Hard or Go Home.

He has also been a body double for Italian footballer Mario Balotelli and Jamaican sprinting superstar Usain Bolt.

Paul, who has a following of over one million people on social media, always tried to do his best in sport when he was younger.

“When I was in school, I just thought I was going to be an athlete, I wanted to be a professional football player, nothing else really mattered,” he said.

“There are two things that I remember in Ireland when I was a kid. Having a laugh and being good at sports really helped fit in.

“I was different in class, walking down the street, I was the only black person. There was nobody of any colour. If you were really good at sports, people would stick with you.

“It might’ve ruined how well I did at studying. I always loved the laugh and when I got people giggling, they wanted to be around me more.

“But I probably fought around 200 people by the time I was 18. That’s another thing that I learned early in Dublin, you don’t back down from anybody.

“My dad told me when I was six years of age, someone called me a black b*****d and I didn’t do anything about it. I told my dad and he said if anyone ever calls me that, I should start swinging.

“As a Dublin young lad, there was always a thing where I thought ‘as long as my mates had my back, I’d be okay’.

“There were eight of us and we always stuck by each other. If someone said something about my colour, that’s the only time I set myself off.

“I knew how Dublin worked for a young lad. Luckily, I found my way. My dad was a doctor, that probably helped. We weren’t the black family on the corner, we were Doctor Patrick Olima’s kids.”

Paul now combines his media career with his love for sport and is cheering on Leinster in Heineken’s Love Rivalry campaign, highlighting how much friendly rivalry is embedded in our culture.

“I didn’t know what I was going to be but I’m happy I found something I love. After football didn’t work out for me, I started doing TV and being creative online,” he said.

“Then this new job that was never a job before came about. It’s pretty crazy, I don’t know when social media will be over, but I better milk it for everything I can.”