| 2.2°C Dublin

Athletics: Our pathetic facilities could never lure foreign Olympic teams

They call it 'Whine Time' in my neck of the woods. Or, in more respectable areas, 'Prime Time', which RTE uses to inflict its perspective on affairs, or as 'Whine' would have it, utters a long high-pitched plaintive cry or moan, as my dictionary puts it.

This week, 'Prime Time' whined about the London Olympics and, with a virtual flourish of trumpets, indicted all Ireland for failure to capitalise on our near neighbour's festival of world sport.

At least 10,000 competitors from more than 200 countries will converge on London, and will warm up in the preceding week or two, but not in Ireland.

Towns and villages across England will host the visiting teams, and 'Prime Time', in its role of prosecuting counsellor, finds Ireland guilty of negligence in not persuading some of the countries to visit this green and pleasant isle of Yeats and Joyce, not to mention Ron Delany, Sonia O'Sullivan and Eamonn Coghlan.

There are at least two reasons why we will not have Olympic teams based here. Two overwhelming reasons that 'Prime Time' must have been aware of before they transmitted their cock-eyed programme.

The first is the financial cost in Ireland would be prohibitive, in contrast to a sunny stay in a nice quarter of the Chilterns.

The second is the chronic lack of sporting facilities on this island. We have a paucity of running tracks and no indoor stadium or indoor training facilities.

Ireland's sports facilities are pathetic, the worst in Europe, probably the worst in the so-called developed countries.

If we did inveigle an athletic team to sample our amenities, it would be reminiscent of the old story about the man seeking directions. "How do I go to the running track at Ballyslap?" "Well, sir, if I were you, I wouldn't start from here."

London will be staging the Games for the third time (after 1908, 1948). The 1908 Games is most noted for the collapse of Italian marathon runner Dorando Pietri, who was helped over the finish line by worried officials who feared he would die.

The winner was Johnny Hayes, running for the USA but whose parents came from Nenagh, Co Tipperary. The distance of that marathon race for the first time was 26 miles 385 yards (the 385 yards was added to the distance so the race would finish in front of Queen Victoria).

It was at those 1908 Games that John Flanagan, a New York policeman originally from Kilbreedy, Co Limerick, won his third gold medal, having previously demonstrated superior hammer throwing by the Irish in 1900 and in 1904.

1948? The height of the Irish athletics dispute -- we won't start from there!

Irish Independent