A dedicated website has been established to assist Irish business to avail of the opportunities arising from the London Olympics in 2012, the Minister Arts, Sport & Tourism Martin Cullen told the Dail.
The tourism agencies had committed themselves to an energetic approach to the marketing of Ireland, particularly in the lead up to and during the games, while the artistic and cultural agencies stood ready to organise events which would showcase Ireland to the world, he said.
On the sporting side, he said the recent taskforce report put forward proposals for investment in sports facilities that would increase our attractiveness as a training destination for Olympic teams in the lead-up and during the Games.
“However, we must be realistic in this area, particularly given the current economic conditions,” he said. “My Department will engage shortly with the relevant sporting, tourism and cultural agencies on how best to promote Ireland internationally in the lead up to the London 2012 Games. These discussions will take account of the current economic situation, the findings of the London 2012 taskforce report and my recent meetings to identify the challenges which must be met in the preparation of our team for the London games.”
Minister Cullen said he had a useful meeting with the chairman of the 2012 Olympic Games organisation in the United Kingdom, Sebastian Coe, at which he suggested a cultural Olympics which would run parallel with the sporting side. He also had discussions with the Arts Council in this regard and bilateral discussions had already taken place.
“What is envisaged is events being run in Dublin as part of a package with events taking place in the United Kingdom,” he explained. “The objective would be to encourage people to take two or three days out of their stay in the United Kingdom to visit Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford or elsewhere in the State. Offering packages of events running parallel to the Games would be an effective way of encouraging such tourism. Work is ongoing in this regard and I am confident we will be able to attract significant numbers of visitors. The evidence suggests that significant numbers of people will go to the Olympic Games for three weeks with their families but will not want to spend every day there.”
There was a significant cultural opportunity, he said. As part of their planning for 2012, the various agencies were in contact with the authorities in the United Kingdom. The latter had been very positive, welcoming and open with Ireland in exploring how the country could best reap the rewards of the 2012 Olympic Games.
“I hoped to provide a range of facilities at Abbottstown,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is no longer possible, although some smaller-scale facilities may be put in place in time. I do not have the resources to fund a velodrome. It is as simple as that. If there were a possibility of private sector support, that would be explored.”
O’Shea praises role of Irish troops in Chad
Irish troops based in Chad have improved the situation a great deal many of the refugees from the Sudan do not have a great inclination to return home for a long time, Labour Deputy Brian O’Shea told the Dáil.
Speaking on a motion extending the troops mission but under a UN mandate from March 15, Deputy O’Shea said even though the conditions were not very good, the conditions under the EUFOR mission were better than conditions in Sudan.
“The concern we have is the effect this may have on further refugees coming from Darfur and the consequences for the area in terms of the operation of Irish troops,” he said. “I visited Abeche and N’Djamena in Chad but I did not get as far as Goz Beida. To see our troops perform a task at least as well as anywhere else in the world is uplifting. Terrain is hostile, hot and barren. Uncertainty exists because of bandits and militia groups.”
Deputy O’Shea said this was the biggest mission by the EUFOR under the operational command of Lieutenant-General Nash and it was a success. There were major problems to begin with, such as the logistics of setting up camp in an area 2,000 miles from the sea, and this was a major undertaking.
“It was discharged very well,” he said. “The UN base was under construction when I visited the area and I am sure progress has been made on this. The fact that Lieutenant-General Nash oversaw this mission from its inception through to its conclusion and the fact that it has been successful makes me very proud as an Irish person and a Member of this House.”