Exclusive: Plan for Olympic Torch Relay to visit Dublin before London 2012 given big boost
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
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June 16 - A plan for the Olympic Torch Relay to travel to Dublin before the London 2012 Games has moved significantly closer after the Northern Ireland Assembly approved the proposal which it is hoped will be another important step in cementing the peace process in the country.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have both given their backing to the plan first launched earlier this year by Patrick Hickey, the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).
It is due to be discussed further tomorrow with the Government in Dublin before an official request for the Torch to travel to Ireland is sent by Hickey to London 2012 and Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Hickey told insidethegames: "Negotiations are ongoing but I am hugely encouraged by the overwhelming support for plans for the Torch Relay to travel across Ireland."
The Olympic Torch has never visited Ireland and Hickey claimed that the Relay would be another important milestone in the peace process, which started in 1994.
The long-awaited release yesterday of the report into Bloody Sunday, a 5,000-page document which blamed the British army for an incident in which 13 people on a civil rights march in January 1972 were killed, has helped the process, Hickey claimed.
He said: "The release of the Bloody Sunday report is incredibly important in the peace process and if the Torch Relay were to come to Dublin then it would be the icing on the cake.
"Everyone has been very supportive in making this work, including Jacques Rogge and Sebastian Coe at London 2012, who can see how important this is."
The IOC banned the Torch Relay travelling outside the Olympic host country following the demonstrations that marred the build-up to Beijing in 2008.
But Ireland is a unique situation.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but the OCI has jurisdiction for the Olympics across the whole of the island, including Belfast, where the Torch Relay was already expected to visit.
London 2012 launched early plans last month for the Torch Relay, which is scheduled to arrive in Britain from Greece on May 18, 2012, and travel around the British Isles for 70 days before the Opening Ceremony on July 27.
Hickey said: "Everyone in Ireland is really excited by the prospect of London 2012 hosting the Olympics.
"It would be a huge event for the whole of Ireland for the Olympic Torch Relay to visit the country and another significant step forward in the peace process."
May 2010: London 2012 release details of Olympic Torch Relay
March 2010: Plan for London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay to visit Dublin backed
March 2009: International leg of Olympic torch relay banned