The Olympic Torch will be a “tremendous showcase” for the people, places and businesses of Northern Ireland, and will celebrate the role that Northern Ireland is playing in London 2012, Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said today.
As he prepared to welcome the arrival of the flame from the Isle of Man, Mr Paterson said:
“The next few days are Northern Ireland’s moment to shine. The Torch will shine a light on many of our most scenic areas and iconic landmarks. I am confident that people throughout Northern Ireland will turn out in their thousands to show their support for the Torch, the Games and to celebrate our role in making them happen.
“The people of Northern Ireland have always shown tremendous support for London 2012. The Torch is touring all over Northern Ireland and it’s our chance to demonstrate that this truly is a Games for the whole of the UK. We can also celebrate the contribution Northern Ireland is making, with companies in Northern Ireland winning London 2012 contracts worth over £40 million – from building the Central Park Bridge on the Olympic Park to supplying metal for the Olympic Stadium.”
Mr Paterson will be at Belfast’s George Best City Airport to welcome the Torch as it arrives in Northern Ireland, where he will be joining Olympian Dame Mary Peters, First Minister Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness MP MLA and Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA .
Torch bearers in Northern Ireland range in age from 12 to over 90 years old. Brothers Alistair, 14, and Jeremy McIlwee, 12, from Lisburn will be carrying the Torch on the same day. Jeremy, who is one of the youngest Torchbearers in Northern Ireland, will be going through Ballynahinch.
“I am really excited. It’s not something I ever thought I’d get a chance to do. My friends and family are really proud of both me and my brother who is running on the same day. This is my chance to be part of a really good summer and to show off Northern Ireland.”
Bob Lingwood, 93, from Omagh, will carry the Olympic Torch through Enniskillen. Bob, who is one of the oldest Torchbearers in Northern Ireland, was nominated by the charity Focus.
“I’m delighted and honoured to be carrying the Torch. I’m especially pleased to be taking part in the Olympics in this way because I remember playing football every Sunday on what were the Hackney Marshes, close to the Olympic site. I remember the last time the Olympics came to London in 1948, and I think London 2012 will be the best Olympic and Paralympic Games ever.”
Northern Ireland has already played a key role in preparing for the Games:
- More than 45 companies in Northern Ireland were awarded contracts for London 2012 worth over £40 million including construction of the Central Park Bridge on the Olympic Park; supplying architectural metal work for the Olympic Stadium; fitting out the Olympic Park’s media centre; and providing temporary modular buildings for the Basketball Arena.
- Northern Ireland’s first class sporting facilities has led nine international Olympic and Paralympic teams to set up Pre-Games Training Camps in the region.
- Northern Ireland has been engaging young people in sport, with over 500 local schools taking part in the Get Set programme, an education initiative which celebrates Olympic and Paralympic values.
Cultural & Community
- There are a large number of London 2012 Festival events taking place in Northern Ireland including a rock concert at Derry-Londonderry.
- Northern Ireland is home to more than 60 London 2012 Inspire Programme projects, which recognise, celebrate and support non-commercial projects and events inspired by the Games. This includes the 5 Star Disability Challenge, which is educating children about disability, sport and the Paralympics and includes quizzes, talks by disabled athletes and the chance to take part in five Paralympic-style sports.
There are also many cultural projects inspired by London 2012 in Northern Ireland, such as ImagineAction, a project encouraging young people involved with sport to engage with the arts through drama and dance.
Notes to editors
1. For media enquiries please contact Government Olympic Communication (GOC) on email@example.com or 0207 271 1700. To request an interview with Owen Paterson please contact Amanda Craig at the Northern Ireland Information Office on firstname.lastname@example.org / tel: 07980 742514.
2. Visit the website for the Northern Ireland Office
3. Torch route: The Torch will travel around Northern Ireland for five days from 3-7 June, taking in key landmarks. There will be evening celebrations to mark its arrival in Portrush, Derry/Londonderry, Newry and Belfast. The route will take in 60 communities and several iconic landmarks beginning with Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the Titanic was built. It will then go through Belfast and past the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont before being carried up the coast to Portrush. The following day, the Torch will cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge before going onto Derry/Londonderry. From there it heads to Omagh and Lough Erne, before ending the day in the city of Newry, near the border. After a day in Dublin it returns to Belfast. The final section of the four-day relay will see the Torch start from Newcastle and go on to Ballymena, before ending its Northern Ireland journey in Moorfields.
4. Information on the Torchbearers:
Despite having asthma and a medical condition which affects his hip joints, Jeremy McIIwee is a keen sportsman winning gold in swimming for his school and is working towards a gold badge in a British Gymnastics proficiency award scheme. Not only did he help out at the Boccia Cup last year, he now does voluntary work. He is also an enthusiastic member of the Scouts helping with towpath cleanups over the past three years.
Although a Londoner by birth, Bob Lingwood moved to Northern Ireland in the 1950s when he managed a shoe company where he worked to ensure each worker had equal rights. After a stint travelling the world for Reebok he retired, only to then take on an active role in the community and voluntary sector. He is currently the Chairperson of Omagh Access Forum which deals with accessibility issues for disabled people.
5. NI Companies awarded contracts for London 2012
- Lagan Construction, Belfast, built the Central Park Bridge in the Olympic Park
- The McGrath Group, County Antrim provided architectural metal work for the Olympic Stadium
- H&J Martin fitted out the media centre in the Olympic Park.
- McAvoy Group, Dungannon provided temporary modular buildings for the Basketball Arena