Thursday, December 08, 2011
Olympic flame coming to Dublin...
LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The Olympic flame will travel to Ireland before next year's London Games in an historic and symbolic gesture of peace and political goodwill. The International Olympic Committee on Thursday approved London's proposal for the flame to visit Dublin on June 6, 2012, the only time the flame will leave the U.K. during the 70-day torch relay. After human rights protests marred the international torch relay before the 2008 Beijing Games, the IOC ruled that relays should take place only within the host countries.
However, the IOC executive board agreed to make an exception for the London flame to travel from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny welcomed the decision."
"This brings even closer to home the spirit of the Olympic Games which is being hosted by our near neighbours in London next year," Kenny said. Irish IOC member and national Olympic committee head Patrick Hickey said he expects a quarter of a million people to line the streets for the occasion.
"What better a symbol for peace than the torch relay," Hickey told The Associated Press. "Ireland is also going through terribly tough economic times. This will give us a great lift out of all the gloom and doom."
The Olympic flame will arrive in the U.K. from Greece on May 18, kicking off an 8,000-mile relay involving 8,000 torchbearers. The relay will culminate with the lighting of the cauldron during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27. Negotiations to take the torch to Ireland have been going on for months. The proposal won the support of Olympic officials, political leaders and security forces from the U.K., Northern Ireland and Ireland. "Knowing of the sensibility of the issue here, we wanted to make sure that all the governments were very into the loop and the different partners and security and others were in the loop," IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said. "Following all this analysis, that's why it took a bit of time for the organizing committee to present the final project to the IOC."
Sebastian Coe, head of the London organizing committee, told a Parliamentary hearing last month that taking the flame to Ireland "would speak eloquently and powerfully for sport." The torch relay will be going through Northern Ireland between June 3 and June 7. "Given the proximity of the flame to the Republic of Ireland this symbolic visit has been arranged to shine a light on the rich heritage and sporting ambitions of Ireland, north and south," the London organizing committee said in a statement.
Torch bearers will carry the flame through Dublin and the proceedings will end with a midmorning celebration in the city centre. More details of the crossing point and route will be announced next year.