To date, eight countries have confirmed their intention to set up Pre-Games Training Camps in Northern Ireland, including the Chinese Olympic artistic gymnastics team, Australian Olympic boxing team, Olympic athletics teams from Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Sudan, and Paralympic teams from Jordan and Ireland.
In addition a number of London 2012 qualifying events have taken place in Northern Ireland with over 50 countries having been involved. UK medal hopefuls from Northern Ireland competing for Team GB include Paralympic sprinter Sally Brown and Paralympic archer Sharon Vennard.
More than 40 companies from Northern Ireland have won main and supply chain contracts worth in excess of £40 million. Over five local businesses have played a role in the construction of the Olympic Park, including:
- construction of the Central Park Bridge on the Park;
- supplying architectural metal work for the Olympic Stadium; and
- providing temporary modular buildings for the Basketball Arena.
There are 19 locally funded and managed cultural projects officially inspired by London 2012 in Northern Ireland, including ImagineAction, a project encouraging young people involved with sport to engage with the arts through drama and dance. Other major cultural events planned for 2012 include:
- Peace One Day on 21 June, a major concert in Derry/Londonderry to mark the Global Truce 2012;
- Noye’s Fludde, Benjamin Britten’s children’s opera in the unique location of Belfast Zoo; and
- Land of Giants in Belfast, the largest outdoor arts event ever to be staged in Northern Ireland, which fuses myth and history in a spectacle of acrobatics, carnival music and fireworks.
The Olympic Torch will be in the region for five days (3-7 June) taking in key landmarks. The Torch will visit a number of towns, villages and cities, including evening celebrations in Portrush (3 June), Derry/Londonderry (4 June), Newry (5 June) and Belfast (6 June).
The Torch Relay is helping to shine a light on the tourism opportunities of different parts of the country.
- Landscape and nature – the hugely diverse and stunning landscape of Northern Ireland features the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Giant’s Causeway in Antrim – with its legendary basalt columns created by prehistoric volcanic activity. Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain while the Fermanagh lake lands make up a second extensive lake system. Northern Ireland has seven Blue Flag beaches, one Blue Flag marina and ten beaches with the Seaside Award. The Exploris Aquarium and Seal Sanctuary offer the chance to see marine wildlife up close and understand conservation issues.
- History – there are over 300 National Trust stately homes and gardens, and historic landmarks including Enniskillen Castle and Navan Fort near Armagh – stronghold of the Ulster kings. Derry/Londonderry is considered one of the finest examples of walled cities in Europe. From the old to the new, the Titanic Belfast is the largest Titanic state-of-the-art visitor experience and opened in 2012.
- Culture – From spectacular buildings like Belfast’s Waterfront Hall and Odyssey Arena to traditional stalwarts such as the Grand Opera House and Ulster Hall, Northern Ireland has a number of key arts performance venues. Home to famous music personalities such as Van Morrison and Snow Patrol, Northern Ireland offers unique music experiences with annual festivals like the Glasgowbury Music Festival and PlanetLove electronic music festival. Derry/Londonderry has also be awarded the 2013 Capital of Culture award in celebration of the city’s unique cultural heritage.
- Food – From griddle breads like soda bread farl to ‘Champ’ (potato mash flavoured with shredded scallions), many traditional dishes have their roots in potatoes and bread. The environment and climate of Northern Ireland are ideal for high quality produce of seafood, game and dairy including eels from Lough Neagh, Europe’s greatest source of eels and Finnebrogue venison. Vibrant food festivals such as the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival and Garden Gourmet Festival in the Botanic Gardens are popular.