MAJOR CONFUSION ABOUNDS this afternoon over why there will be no official homecoming event when Ireland’s athletes return from the London Olympics tomorrow.
Reports in newspapers today suggested that Dublin City Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland were unable to agree on shouldering the costs of an event in Dublin city to honour the athletes.
However the OCI has also said that the majority of athletes want to go straight home once they arrive at Dublin Airport tomorrow afternoon.
Sonia O’Sullivan, Team Ireland’s chef de mission, said that neither she nor the athletes had been consulted about firm plans for a homecoming event.
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s This Week programme this afternoon, O’Sullivan said that a plan had been in place for a long time for athletes to speak at a press conference in Dublin Airport when they arrive back in the country.
When asked if she had ever been involved in any discussions about an event in Dublin city centre, O’Sullivan replied: “Never”.
She said that she had not spoken to all of the Irish athletes but said that the consensus from members of Team Ireland was that they had beeen away from their family and friends for a long time and wanted to get back to their homes.
The press conference at the airport will still go ahead as planned.
“I heard that there were some people trying to organise something [during the week] and so then I asked around what was going on… but it’s one of those things that, I think, everybody needs to want to do it”. She added:
If the performers don’t want to go on the stage, there’s no point doing it.
Junior Minister for Sport Michael Ring said that “we have to respect the wishes of the athletes that they do not want a homecoming”.
Bronze medallist boxer Paddy Barnes tweeted about the homecoming
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has weighed in on the issue and said that he will “respect the wishes” of the athletes, the Irish Times reports. The Taoiseach has proposed holding a reception in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park later in the week.
Despite the lack of one major event, thousands of people are expected to turn out to towns around the country to welcome Irish athletes home tomorrow.
Bray will see an open top bus, live music and a fireworks display to welcome boxer Adam Nolan and gold medallist Katie Taylor back to the Wicklow town.